There's a Government Statute for Using Video During Public Meetings

Texas public pension boards can use videoconferencing to hold public meetings. However, the state's open meetings law has a few limitations. 

The Texas Open Meetings Act is the governing statute that provides public access to governmental bodies' meetings. And Section 551.127 of the Government Code allows members and employees of a state or local governing body to join a meeting remotely if the video feed complies with the other provisions of the section. 

Here's the catch: A quorum of the governmental body must attend the meeting at the location specified in the meeting's public notice, and the meeting site must remain physically accessible to the public. The notification must also specify that one or more governing body members will attend the meeting via video. 

Here's what this all means for pension board members:

  • A board member may participate remotely in a meeting if the video and audio feed of the member is broadcast live at the meeting.
  • A member of the board who participates in a remote meeting will be counted as present.
  • A board member who participates in a meeting via videoconference call will be considered absent from any portion of the meeting during which audio or video communication with the participant is lost or disconnected. Keep in mind, however, that a pension board may only continue the meeting if the board's quorum remains at the meeting location. 

There is another section of the code to pay attention to, Section 551.127 (c). This section states that "A meeting of a state governmental body or a governmental body that extends into three or more counties may be held by videoconference call only if the members of the governmental body presiding over the meeting is physically present at one location of the meeting that is open to the public during the open portions of the meeting."

Here are some requirements pension boards must consider:

  • Board meeting notices, including videoconference calls, must specify the location of the meeting where a quorum of the board will be physically president. 
  • The public must have audio and visual access to all meeting portions. If a problem prevents the public from seeing or hearing a meeting, a board must recess until it resolves the issue. The board must adjourn the meeting if it cannot resolve the issue within six hours. 
  • A board must make at least an audio recording of the meeting available to the public.
  • The board meeting location and each trustee remotely participating must have two-way audio and video communication during the entire meeting. While participating in the videoconference call, each participant's face and voice must be visible to all participants and the public attendees at the physical location of the meeting and any other site where the forum is open to the public during the open portion of the meeting.
  • Whether or not a board member is participating via videoconference, a member of the public may testify via videoconference.  

What is Video Conferencing?

There are technical specifications required to conduct videoconference calls at public meetings. The Texas Department of Information Resources, the state's official technology agency, outlines the specifications. Pension boards will need to ensure their videoconference calls meet audio and video signals perceptible by public members at each meeting location. The agency's handbook is available here

Trustees who want to participate in a meeting remotely will need a computer with a camera, microphone, and speakers so all attendees can see them, and the remote participant can hear everyone else. Also, at the board meeting location, the board must provide a video monitor proportional to the room and speakers with enough volume and quality to allow attendees to see and hear all remote trustees.   

According to the state's Open Meeting Act, the audio and video signals must be good enough for the public at the meeting location to "observe the demeanor and hear the voice of each participant in the open portion of the meeting." In other words, the public needs to be able to see the facial expressions of a trustee on the monitor. 

Tips to Look Professional on Camera

State agencies require no particular videoconferencing platform. Many home computers or laptops meet the technical requirements for those calling in remotely to a board meeting. Videoconferencing tools may be available to pension boards via their sponsors or other stakeholders. 

Visit the Attorney General of Texas' Open Meetings Act Training website to download the Open Meetings Act Handbook. Also on the site is the Public Information Act Handbook and contact information for the Open Records Division of the Attorney General's office.

Videoconferencing Etiquette and Setup Tips


About the Author: Allen Jones is director of communications and event marketing for TEXPERS. He joined the Association in January 2017. 


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