Can you hear me now? Technology requirements for public meetings by videoconference

by | Aug 24, 2022 | Texas Open Meetings Act

A governmental body’s IT department plays an important role in a running a meeting where one or more members of the governmental body or staff are participating remotely by videoconference call. Governmental bodies should carefully plan ahead to ensure that a meeting by videoconference call satisfies all requirements under Section 551.127 of the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA), because any action taken by a governmental body in violation of TOMA requirements is voidable.

The Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) allows governmental bodies to conduct open or closed meetings by videoconference call, so long as the meeting complies with the requirements set out in Section 552.127 of the Government Code.

Fully virtual meetings aren’t allowed, but “hybrid” in-person and virtual meetings are allowed. Section 551.127 of TOMA sets out numerous requirements for these hybrid meetings:

  • A meeting held by videoconference call is subject to the notice requirements applicable to ordinary in-person meetings. In addition, the notice for a meeting held by videoconference must specify a location where a quorum of the governmental body will be physically present. If the meeting is for a state agency or governmental body that extends into three or more counties, the presiding member must be physically present at one location of the meeting that is open to the public during the open portions of the meeting and the notice must state that location.[1]
  • A meeting of a state agency or governmental body that extends into three or more counties may only be held by videoconference call if the member 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.[2]
  • Each portion of the meeting that is required to be open to the public must be visible and audible to the public at the in-person location of the meeting. If a problem occurs that causes a meeting to no longer be visible and audible to the public at that location, the meeting must be recessed until the problem is resolved. If the problem is not resolved in six hours or less, the meeting must be adjourned.[3]
  • A quorum of the governmental body must be physically present at one location of the meeting that is open to the public (i.e., if the city council has 5 members, 3 must be physically present at one location that is open to the public).[4] Remaining members of the governmental body may participate remotely. (i.e., if the city council has 5 members, up to 2 members may participate remotely).
  • If a member or employee of a governmental body participates remotely by means of a videoconference call, the member’s or employee’s video and audio feed must be broadcast live at the in-person location of the meeting.[5]
  • The in-person location of the meeting, and each remote location from which a member of the governmental body participates, must have two-way audio and video communication with each other location during the entire meeting.[6]
  • The face of each participant in the videoconference call, while that participant is speaking, must be “clearly visible” and “the voice audible,” to each other participant and, during the open portion of the meeting, to the members of the public in attendance at the in-person location of the meeting and any other location of the meeting that is open to the public.[7]
  • The audio and video signals perceptible by members of the public at each location of the meeting open to the public must be of sufficient quality so that the public can observe the demeanor and hear the voice of each participant in the open portion of the meeting.[8]
  • If the audio or video feed for a remotely-participating member or employee of a governmental body is lost or disconnected, that member or employee is considered absent until the audio and video feed are re-connected. The governmental body may continue the meeting only if a quorum of the body remains present and connected. [9]
  • The governmental body must allow a member of the public to testify at the meeting from a remote location by videoconference call.[10]
  • The governmental body must make an audio recording of the meeting, and the recording must be made available to the public.[11]

TOMA requires the Department of Information Resources (DIR) to create “minimum standards for audio and video signals” at a meeting held by videoconference call.[12] To that end, DIR published its Videoconferencing Standards on September 7, 2021.

In addition to setting out minimum standards for things like security and bandwidth, DIR’s Videoconferencing Standards include recommendations informed by DIR’s experience with videoconference tools. DIR recommends that meetings should be monitored by an assigned employee from the primary meeting site, to ensure that all participants are within camera range and centered throughout the meeting and to help participants resolve technical issues. DIR also recommends that all participants should mute themselves or be muted when not speaking.


[1] Tex. Gov’t Code § 551.127(d), (e).

[2] Tex. Gov’t Code § 551.127(c).

[3] Tex. Gov’t Code § 551.127(f).

[4] Tex. Gov’t Code § 551.127(b).

[5] Tex. Gov’t Code § 551.127(a-1).

[6] Tex. Gov’t Code § 551.127(h).

[7] Tex. Gov’t Code § 551.127(h).

[8] Tex. Gov’t Code § 551.127(j).

[9] Tex. Gov’t Code § 551.127(a-3).

[10] Tex. Gov’t Code § 551.127(k).

[11] Tex. Gov’t Code § 551.127(g).

[12] Tex. Gov’t Code § 551.127(i).

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