Q: One of our board members will be out of town on business during our next regularly scheduled board meeting. There are several important votes to be taken on some upcoming projects. If we are able to set up a conference call, can the board member participate by telephone? Can he vote?
A: No. The Attorney General has found that if a quorum of the board is present at a meeting location, absent members cannot participate by telephone; however, Texas Law does authorize videoconference participation under certain circumstances.
The Texas Attorney General has stated that members of the governing body of a governmental entity may not participate in meetings remotely unless specifically authorized to do so by statute. Op. Tex. Att’y Gen. JC-352 (2001). The law does not provide for teleconference participation by an absent board member; however, the Texas Government Code does allow for videoconference participation in certain situations. Thus, the Attorney General has concluded that telephone participation (i.e., deliberation, comments or voting) is not authorized by statute and thus prohibited.
If your district has the technological capabilities, videoconference participation is an option under Texas Government Code §551.127. If a quorum of the board is present at your regular meeting location, the law allows an absent member to participate by videoconference if:
- the video/audio feed of the trustee’s participation is broadcast live at the meeting;
- the member participating by videoconference is counted as present;
- both locations (where the quorum is present and where the absent member is located) have two-way communication during the entire meeting;
- the face of each participant in the videoconference call is clearly visible and his/her voice clearly audible (this applies to both the absent trustee and all physically present board members);
- members of the public in attendance at open session are able to clearly see and hear the absent member participating by videoconference; and
- the videoconference call complies with the Department of Information Resources’ specific technological requirements regarding the quality of audio/video signals during video calls.
Because of the stringent requirements related to videoconference participation, it is recommended that you consult with your school district’s attorney and/or technology director before allowing a board member to remotely participate in a meeting via videoconference.