Ask Joe Eisner: Association libraries and FOIL requests for minutes

Featured Question and Answer by Joe Eisner

Q. If association libraries boards are not subject to the Freedom of Information Law, why must they respond to a FOIL request for copies of the board meeting minutes?

A. Education Law s260-a states:

Meetings of board of trustees. Every meeting, including a special district meeting, of a board of trustees of a public library system, cooperative library system, public library or free association library, including every committee meeting and subcommittee meeting of any such board of trustees in cities having a population of one million or more, shall be open to the general public.

Such meetings shall be held in conformity with and in pursuance to the provisions of article seven of the public officers law. Provided, however, and notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision one of section ninety-nine of the public officers law, public notice of the time and place of a meeting scheduled at least two weeks prior thereto shall be given to the public and news media at least one week before such meeting.

2) In Op COG OML 2901, June 15, 1998, COG Counsel stated:

Since Education Law s260-a requires that “Every meeting… of a board of trustees of a… free association library… shall be open to the general public and held in conformity with and in pursuance to the provisions of… the Public Officers Law, “[I]t would be anomalous in my view to be subject to the Open Meetings Law but exempt from the critical provisions of that statute. specifically those pertaining to the minutes of their meetings. For that reason, because of the obvious intent of s260-a of the Education Law, and because of the general nature of the libraries subject to that statute and the Open Meetings Law, I believe that entities falling within the scope of those provisions must prepare and generally disclose minutes of meetings….”

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