REED CITY — The Reed City city council recently held a special meeting to approve an amended meeting policy.

Following the implementation of Public Act 228 of 2020, which amends the Open Meetings Act, local governmental units are, once again, adjusting their meeting policy in order to be in compliance with the act.

The amendments of Act 228 incorporate many of the requirements for electronic meetings and remote participation that were in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s nullified executive orders.

“What this is going to do is, that between now and the end of the year, you can decide for any reason to meet electronically,” City Attorney Dave Porteous said at the Oct. 28 meeting. “After that, it can only be to accommodate members pursuant to what is outlined in the amendment.”

Act 228 allows public bodies to conduct electronic "virtual" meetings with remote participation for any reason through the end of 2020, and in 2021 under specific circumstances, which include military service, a medical condition or a local state of emergency declaration.

The amendments apply retroactively to March 18, which means that actions taken at electronic meetings held on or after March 18 will be considered valid if those meetings complied with the general requirements for electronic meetings prescribed by the act.

Discussion at the special council meeting centered around whether it was necessary for council members to be seen, as well as heard, by the public during a virtual meeting.

Mayor Trevor Guiles said he believed that it should be stated in the policy that council members be required to be seen, as well as heard, when participating in a virtual meeting.

“I believe the public has a right to see the actions and reactions of the council, or whatever the governing body is,” Guiles said. “A lot of communication, as we know from studies, happens nonverbally, so we are missing a good portion of the communication by only having verbal.”

Council member Nate Bailey questioned the necessity of being able to see the participants saying, “Nonverbal communication does not present evidence of the thought process and can often be misinterpreted. And what happens if a person is in an area without data service?”

“My concern is that it is too easy to be distracted and not paying attention to the discussion at hand, and then voting on something, when you do not have video,” Guiles said. “We have provided tablets to all of the council members, so the ability is there to connect and have video. I don’t see why we wouldn’t want everyone to be seen.”

Porteous said the policy is likely to go through additional changes as the state works through the COVID-19 pandemic ups and downs.

“Future changes are likely to come before the council,” he said. “We can see how this works and you may decide you want to make some adjustments.”

The motion to adopt the new policy passed by a vote of 4-1, with Guiles voting NO.

The Reed City city council will meet at 7 p.m., Nov. 23. For information on how to access the meeting virtually visit reedcity.org or call 231-832-2245.