Sunshine Act Compliance in a Paperless World

If your Board is considering moving to a paperless Board Meeting, problems may arise in providing the public with sufficient notice of the actions which will be taken by the Board at their Meeting.

The public participation section of the Sunshine Act (65 Pa.C.S. 710.1(a)) provides that “the Board … shall provide a reasonable opportunity at each advertised regular meeting … for residents … or for taxpayers … or for both to comment on matters of concern, official action or deliberation which are or may be before the Board … prior to taking official action.”  Although there is no statutory requirement in the Sunshine Act that the Meeting Agenda be distributed to the public, customarily, this notice has been provided by making the Board’s Agenda, which includes each Motion item, available to the public.  If the public Agenda generated in a paperless Board Meeting is in outline form only and does not identify the various specific Motions which are before the Board for official action, it will be impossible for members of the public to provide relevant comments as they will have no knowledge of the actions which the Board will be considering.  Conceivably, a member of the public could legitimately request that the Board identify all matters which the Board will be considering at the Meeting. If the public is not made aware of the specific items which are before the Board for a vote prior to the Motions being made, members of the public could legitimately require that each item be read at the time the Motion is made and then demand the opportunity to make public comment on each item before the vote is taken.  This would be disruptive and delay the business portion of the meeting.  Further, if a member of the public desires to make comment during the public participation portion of the meeting and the topic which they raise is not a matter on the Agenda, it will be difficult to restrict the comment since the public will be unaware of the items before the Board for consideration.

Therefore, although not specifically statutorily required, as was common practice prior to moving to a paperless Board Meeting, the best practice is for the Agendas provided to the public to include and list the specific Motions under each Committee/category.  The public will then have an opportunity to comment prior to the Board taking official action.