Ask Joe Eisner: Are You Complying with the Open Meetings Law? A Model Policy to Double Check

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Q. Are association libraries subject to the requirements of the Open Meetings Law, and if so, what procedures must the Board follow?

A. Yes- Education Law s260-a requires that both public and association library boards and library system boards comply with the procedures set forth in the Open Meetings Law in regard to the conduct of board meetings.  It is suggested that boards, after consultation with legal counsel.  consider adopting, whether in an amended form or as set forth, the model policy. This document recapitulates the relevant portions of the Open Meetings Law relating to the notice requirements, availability of documents, and other important matters with which board   members should  be familiar.

Appendix:

A SUGGESTED MODEL POLICY FOR CONFORMING TO THE REQUIREMENTS FOR COMPLYING WITH THE OPEN MEETINGS LAW

The ____________________ Board of Trustees is fully cognizant of the intent of the Open Meetings Law to assure public business is performed in an open and public manner in order that those interested citizens can attend and listen to he deliberations of the Board of Trustees which lead to the formation of public policy.

It is the intention of the ________________________ Board of Trustees to assure that all facets of the New York Open Meetings Law (Public Officers Law s100 et seq) are implemented and observed with regard to all meetings governed by the statute which are conducted by the Library Board:
§ 103. Open meetings and executive sessions.

(a) Every meeting of a public body shall be open to the general public, except that an executive session of such body may be called and business transacted  thereat in accordance with…. [Public Officers Law s105].

(b) Public bodies shall make or cause to be made all reasonable efforts to ensure that meetings are held in facilities that permit barrier-free physical access to the physically handicapped, as defined in subdivision five of section fifty of the public buildings law.
(c) A public body that uses videoconferencing to conduct its meetings shall provide an opportunity for the public to attend, listen and observe at any site at which a member participates.
* (d) Public bodies shall make or cause to be made all reasonable efforts to ensure that meetings are held in an appropriate facility which can adequately accommodate members of the public who wish to attend such meetings.
* NB There are 2 sub (d)’s
* (d) 1. Any meeting of a public body that is open to the public shall be open to being photographed, broadcast, webcast, or otherwise recorded and/or transmitted by audio or video means. As used herein the term ”broadcast” shall also include the transmission of signals by cable.
2. A public body may adopt rules, consistent with recommendations from the committee on open government, reasonably governing the location of equipment and personnel used to photograph, broadcast, webcast, or otherwise record a meeting so as to conduct its proceedings in an orderly manner. Such rules shall be conspicuously posted during meetings and written copies shall be provided upon request to those in attendance.

In order to assure that there can be transparency and public accountability/accessibility on the matter of public sessions held by the Board of Trustees, it is recognized that, as amended, the Open Meetings Law requires that the public be provided access to all documents being considered by the Board during the course of their meeting deliberation in accordance with the requirements of Public Officers Law s103(1)(e):
(e) Agency records available to the public pursuant to… [the Freedom of Information Law],as well as any proposed resolution, law, rule, regulation, policy or any amendment thereto, that is scheduled to be the subject of discussion by a public body during an open meeting shall be made available, upon request therefor, to the extent practicable as
determined by the agency or the department, prior to or at the meeting during which the records will be discussed. Copies of such records may be made available for a reasonable fee, determined in the same manner as provided therefor…. [in the Freedom of Information Law]. If the agency in which a public body functions maintains a regularly and routinely updated website and utilizes a high speed internet connection, such records shall be posted on the website to the extent practicable as determined by the agency or the department, prior to the meeting.

An agency may, but shall not be required to, expend additional moneys to implement the provisions of this subdivision.

It is further recognized that Executive Sessions held by the Library Board may only be convened following a specifically worded motion seeking an adjournment into Executive Session which identifies one or more of the statutory basis prescribed in Public Officers Law s105(1)(a-h) for convening an Executive Session:

  • matters which will imperil the public safety if disclosed;
  • any matter which may disclose the identity of a law enforcement agent or informer;
  • information relating to the current or future investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense which would imperil or adversely affect law enforcement if disclosed;
  • discussions regarding proposed, pending or current litigation;
  • collective negotiations pursuant to Article 14 of the Civil Service Law[*];
  • the medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation;
  • the proposed acquisition, sale or lease of real property or the proposed acquisition of securities or sale or exchange of securities held by such public body, but only when publicity would substantially affect the value thereof.

The notice requirements assuring the public’s knowledge of up-coming Board meetings is to be strictly adhered to as set forth in Public Officers Law s104:

  1. Public notice of the time and place of a meeting scheduled at least one week prior thereto shall be given to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at least seventy-two hours before such meeting.
  2. Public notice of the time and place of every other meeting shall be given, to the extent practicable, to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at a reasonable time prior thereto.
  3. The public notice provided for by this section shall not be construed to require publication as a legal notice.
  4. If videoconferencing is used to conduct a meeting, the public notice for the meeting shall inform the public that videoconferencing will be used, identify the locations for the meeting, and state that the public has the right to attend the meeting at any of the locations.
  5. When a public body has the ability to do so, notice of the time and place of a meeting given in accordance with subdivision one or two of this section, shall also be conspicuously posted on the public body’s internet website.

In accordance with the requirements of Public Officers Law s106:

  1. Minutes shall be taken at all open meetings of a public body which shall consist of a record or summary of all motions, proposals, resolutions and any other matter formally voted upon and the vote thereon.
  2. Minutes shall be taken at executive sessions of any action that is taken by formal vote which shall consist of a record or summary of the final determination of such action, and the date and vote thereon; provided, however, that such summary need not include any matter which is not required to be made public by the freedom of information law as added by article six of this chapter.
  3. Minutes of meetings of all public bodies shall be available to the public in accordance with the provisions of the freedom of information law within two weeks from the date of such meeting except that minutes taken pursuant to subdivision two hereof shall be available to the public within one week from the date of the executive session.

The Board of Library Trustees will make every effort to assure that the foregoing relating to the formulation of public policy is adhered to in good faith and to the extent practicable.

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