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February 22, 1993

 

Mr. Robert F. Reninger
250 Knollwood Road
White Plains, NY 10607

The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to
issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is
based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence.

Dear Mr. Reninger:

I have received your letter of February 8 and the materials
attached to it.

The issues that you raised relate to requests for records
directed to the Town of Greenburgh. One aspect of the request
involved minutes of a meeting, and you asked whether there is "a
time limit on making minutes available." With respect to the
other, the correspondence indicates that the Town Clerk believed
that the materials were made available. If that was not so, she
suggested that you contact the Building Inspector.

In this regard, I offer the following comments.

First, the Open Meetings Law provides guidance concerning
minutes, their contents and the time within which they must be
prepared and made available. Specifically, §106 of that statute
provides that:

"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 meetings 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."

In view of the foregoing, it is clear in my opinion that minutes of
open meetings must be prepared and made available within two weeks
of the meetings to which they pertain. It is also clear that
minutes need not consist of a verbatim account of all that was said
at a meeting, for §106 provides what might be viewed as minimum
requirements concerning the contents of minutes. While a clerk or
public body may choose to prepare expansive minutes, they must
consist only of the kinds of information described in §106.

Further, there is nothing in the Open Meetings Law or any
other statute of which I am aware that requires that minutes be
approved. Nevertheless, as a matter of practice or policy, many
public bodies approve minutes of their meetings. In the event that
minutes have been approved, to comply with the Open Meetings Law,
it has consistently been advised that minutes be prepared and made
available within two weeks, and that if the minutes have not been
approved, they may be marked "unapproved", "draft" or "non-final",
for example. By so doing within the requisite time limitations,
the public can generally know what transpired at a meeting;
concurrently, the public is effectively notified that the minutes
are subject to change. If minutes are prepared within less than
two weeks, I believe that those unapproved minutes would be
available as soon as they exist, and that they may be marked in the
manner described above.

Second, with regard to the second issue, by way of background,
§89(1)(b)(iii) of the Freedom of Information Law requires the
Committee on Open Government to promulgate regulations concerning
the procedural aspects of the Law (see 21 NYCRR Part 1401). In
turn, §87(1)(a) of the Law states that:

"the governing body of each public corporation
shall promulgate uniform rules and regulations
for all agencies in such public corporation
pursuant to such general rules and regulations
as may be promulgated by the committee on open
government in conformity with the provisions
of this article, pertaining to the
administration of this article."

In this instance, the governing board of a public corporation, the
Town of Greenburgh, is the Town Board, and I believe that the Board
is required to promulgate appropriate rules and regulations
consistent with those adopted by the Committee on Open Government
and with the Freedom of Information Law.

The initial responsibility to deal with requests is borne by
an agency's records access officer, and the Committee's regulations
provide direction concerning the designation and duties of a
records access officer. Specifically, §1401.2 of the regulations
provides in relevant part that:

"(a) The governing body of a public
corporation and the head of an executive
agency or governing body of other agencies
shall be responsible for insuring compliance
with the regulations herein, and shall
designate one or more persons as records
access officer by name or by specific job
title and business address, who shall have the
duty of coordinating agency response to public
requests for access to records. The
designation of one or more records access
officers shall not be construed to prohibit
officials who have in the past been authorized
to make records or information available to
the public from continuing to do so."

As such, the Town Board has the ability to designate "one or more
persons as records access officer". Further, §1401.2(b) of the
regulations describes the duties of a records access officer and
states in part that:

"The records access Officer is responsible for
assuring that agency personnel:

(1) Maintain an up-to-date subject matter
list.
(2) Assist the requester in identifying
requested records, if necessary.
(3) Upon locating the records, take one of
the following actions:

(i) make records promptly available for
inspection; or
(ii) deny access to the records in whole or
in part and explain in writing the reasons
therefor.

(4) Upon request for copies of records:

(i) make a copy available upon payment or
offer to pay established fees, if any; or
(ii) permit the requester to copy those
records.

(5) Upon request, certify that a record is a
true copy.
(6) Upon failure to locate the records,
certify that:

(i) the agency is not the custodian for
such records; or
(ii) the records of which the agency is a
custodian cannot be found after diligent
search."

I hope that I have been of some assistance. Should any
further questions arise, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

 

Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director

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cc: Susan Tolchin, Town Clerk