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July 1, 2006

Can One Member of a Governmental Body Participate in a Meeting Electronically?

Iowa's Open Meetings Law allows for individual electronic participation.

Iowa's Open Meetings Law authorizes governmental bodies to conduct "electronic meetings" of the full body, but only if meeting in person is "impossible or impractical," and only if the public has access to hear the meeting. (Iowa Code sec. 21.8 - See Sunshine Advisory September 2002.) What if only one member of the body wants to participate electronically? Is that permissible?

A single member may participate electronically. The statute governing "electronic meetings" does not apply when less than a quorum participates electronically, but nothing in the law prohibits a single member from participating this way. The governmental body should assure that any member participating electronically is audible and is accountable to the public for all discussion and votes.

When an individual member of a governmental body seeks to participate in a meeting electronically, the following points should be considered:

  • Parliamentary procedure: The parliamentary rules of the governmental body should be consulted to determine if they permit individual members to participate electronically.
  • Discussion: Any member participating electronically should be connected by speaker phone or other device, so that the public can hear any discussion by that member. If the session is closed under Iowa Code section 21.5, the tape recording of the closed session must pick up the discussion by any member who is participating electronically. Iowa Code sec. 21.5(4).
  • Voting and minutes: The vote of any member participating electronically must be made public at the open session, and the minutes must include information sufficient to indicate the vote of each member participating electronically. Iowa Code sec. 21.3. (The vote of the member should be audible to the public through a speaker connection.)

In summary: Electronic participation of an individual member does not violate the Open Meetings Law, but the member remains accountable for all discussion and votes.

Sunshine advisories are a general resource for government officials and citizens on Iowa's public records and open meetings laws – our "sunshine” laws.  Local officials should obtain legal advice from their counsel, such as the city or county attorney.

The Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB) is an independent board that the Iowa Legislature established specifically to address open meetings and open records-related matters.  The IPIB provides information to the public and governmental entities on "sunshine" issues.

The IPIB, which has jurisdiction and authority to investigate and enforce Iowa's open meetings and open records laws, enables citizens to file a complaint if they believe that someone is violating these laws.

Citizens who have inquiries or complaints about public records or open meetings should contact the Iowa Public Information Board. Iowa Public Information Board.

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502 East 9th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319


Phone: 515-725-1781

Updated December 1, 2014

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