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Electronic Meetings

Administrative agency meetings are official assemblies of governmental bodies for discussing public business.  Open meetings are  held to eliminate secrecy in applications and decisions on which public policy is based.  In a democracy, the public is supposed to have knowledge about the particulars of government actions.  Generally, open-meetings take place when legislative, executive and/or administrative bodies of the government and theirpolitical subdivisions deliberate and act in public view.  Now-a-days a meeting can be conducted by written, telephonic, electronic, wireless, or other virtual means.

Electronic meetings are meetings held over media as audio, video, or computer-based communications.  Electronic meetings can serves as an alternative to face-to-face meetings.  Electronic meetings use a network of personal computers to improve communication in a meeting.  Computers should not eliminate conversation, discussion, or humor from the meeting.

When an administrative agency meeting is not an electronic meeting there is a need to establish that enough members were involved in a decision to make it binding.  Electronic meetings can be effective with at least two participants or with more than 100 participants.  In most cases two members do not constitute a quorum sufficient to conduct a public meetings.  However this varies from state to state as every state has its own open meetings law.

Meetings can be held in a room or can be held virutally around the world.  Members of an electronic meeting can particiapate at the same or different times.   The introduction of electronic communications in open meetings has brought new construction and interpretation of  open meetings laws in different states.

The exchange of e-mail messages by members can constitute a meeting under open meetings law.  However, passive receipt of electronic mails does not automatically constitute a meeting.  One outside person contacting  county board members and city council members does not satisfy definition of a meeting.  Rather, a meeting involves a gathering in person or by electronic means of a majority of the members of a governmental body where there is deliberation over an issue[1].  Meetings shall not include a gathering of members of a governmental body for social purposes when there is no discussion of public policy matters[2].  Electronic meetings can be held even if the members of meeting are not physically present in the meeting[3].

[1] Fleener v. City of Oskaloosa, 2009 Iowa App. LEXIS 1560 (Iowa Ct. App. Nov. 25, 2009)

[2] Gavin v. Cascade, 500 N.W.2d 729, 732 (Iowa Ct. App. 1993)

[3] Sovich v. Shaughnessy, 705 A.2d 942 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1998)

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