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March 18, 2020

Media Contact: Liz Brocker (701) 328-2213

BISMARCK, ND – Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has issued guidance to public entities in response to questions about open meeting requirements during the current Coronavirus public health crisis.

The existing open meetings law, which has been in place since 1997, recognizes that emergency matters arise during crisis situations that may require a government entity to hold meetings on short notice. That is why there is no minimum advance notice requirement in the law. Rather, as soon as a public entity decides to hold a meeting, it must post a public meeting notice and agenda. If the meeting is a special meeting, the entity also must notify the official newspaper of the meeting.

“Emergency situations such as this call for more transparency, not less, regarding what public officials are doing to protect the public, while not hindering the important work being conducted,” said Stenehjem. “Local government entities should consider whether it is feasible or advisable to postpone or cancel regularly scheduled meetings. If a regular or special meeting is necessary, the public entity may need to be creative to comply with public health recommendations while still preserving the public’s right to access the meeting, such as live streaming, video conferencing, or use of other technology resources,” he continued.

Public entities can review the guidance on the Open Records and Meetings page of the Attorney General’s website.

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