15 March 2020,

Legal Guidance for Local Governments Dealing with COVID-19 and Related Issues

During these trying times, local governments are faced with unique challenges, including states of emergency, regulating gatherings and related legal issues.  Feerick Nugent MacCartney remains ready to assist our clients to navigate through the many issues that are confronting our local leaders and communities.

Declaration of State of Emergency

Municipal executives, such as Town Supervisors and Mayors have the authority to declare a state of emergency under New York State Executive Law, Section 24.  Following the proclamation of a state of emergency, local emergency orders may be promulgated addressing a variety of topics, including suspension of local laws and regulations of gatherings.  A state of emergency declaration may be required in order for municipalities to be eligible for government funds directed toward disaster relief. Our office can provide guidance to municipalities in these areas of law and the necessary documents to declare a state of emergency and local order.

Open Meetings Law

Article 7 of the New York State Public Officers Law (Open Meetings Law) includes provisions that allow municipal board members to participate in public meetings via videoconferencing.  When validly noticed, a municipal board member participating via videoconferencing counts toward the required meeting quorum and may vote on actions of the municipal board via videoconferencing.  On March 12, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.1 that suspends certain requirements that would otherwise require that members of the public be allowed to participate at such videoconferencing sites in person.  Our office can provide guidance on arranging for videoconferencing for public meeting, including meeting the meeting notice requirements of the New York State Public Officers Law.  Our office will be assisting municipal clients that desire to arrange for videoconferencing of public meetings.

Enforcement of Laws and Regulations Concerning Public Gatherings

Municipal Governments, during a state of emergency, may issue local emergency orders to minimize events based on the number of people in attendance along with related matters.  Our office is available to provide guidance to municipal governments on these matters.

Please feel free to contact Partner Brian D. Nugent, Esq. regarding these municipal issues at: 845-353-2000.  Our municipal team has years of experience representing Towns and Villages throughout the Hudson Valley on municipal issues.