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March 20, 2002

 

Ms. Dione Goldin
21 Forestview Terrace
Wappinger, NY 12590

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 Ms. Goldin:

I have received your letter in which you raised a series of issues concerning "Open Meetings Law Notification Requirements."

In this regard, §104 of the Open Meetings Law pertains to notice of meetings of public bodies and states that:

"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."

In consideration of the foregoing, first, I point out that a public body is required only to provide notice of the time and place of a meeting. There is nothing in the Open Meetings Law that requires that notice of a meeting include reference to the subjects to be discussed. Similarly, there is nothing in that statute that pertains to or requires the preparation of an agenda.

Second, §104 imposes a dual requirement, for notice must be posted in one or more conspicuous, public locations, and in addition, notice must be given to the news media. That notice of a meeting is faxed to various locations or offices does not necessarily suggest or indicate that a public body has complied with law. Again, the law requires that notice of a meeting be "posted"in one or more "designated" locations. The term "designated" in my opinion involves a requirement that a public body, by resolution or through the adoption of policy or a directive, must select one or more specific locations where notice of meetings will consistently and regularly be posted. If, for instance, a bulletin board located at the entrance of a school district's administrative offices has been designated as a location for posting notices of meetings, the public has the ability to know where to ascertain whether and when meetings of a school board will be held.

With respect to notice to the news media, subdivision (3) of §104 specifies that the notice given pursuant to the Open Meetings Law need not be legal notice. That being so, a public body is not required to pay to place a legal notice prior to a meeting; it must merely "give" notice of the time and place of a meeting to the news media. Moreover, when in receipt of notice of a meeting, there is no obligation imposed on the news media to publish the notice.

Lastly, I believe that every law, including the Open Meetings Law, must be implemented in a manner that gives reasonable effect to its intent. In that vein, to give effect to intent of the Open Meetings Law, I believe that notice of meetings should be given to news media organizations that would be most likely to make contact with those who may be interested in attending. Similarly, for notice to be "conspicuously" posted, I believe that it must be posted at a location or locations where those who may be interested in attending meetings have a reasonable opportunity to see the notice.

I hope that I have been of assistance.

Sincerely,

Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director

RJF:tt

cc: Board of Education