OML-AO-3440 April 18, 2002
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented in your correspondence.
I have received your letter of March 15 in which you questioned the status of meetings of a district service cabinet under the Open Meetings Law.
In this regard, by way of background, it is my understanding that district service cabinets were created by §2705 of the New York City Charter. Although that provision states that certain officials serve as members of the cabinet, others are representatives of City agencies who might participate, comment or provide information on an as needed basis. For instance, if an issue arises that might be dealt with by the Department of Sanitation, that agency might send one or more representatives. Those same representatives, however, might not attend future meetings. Stated differently, the "membership" is flexible and dependent upon the nature of the issues that might arise in a community.
In consideration of the foregoing and discussions of the matter with various City officials over the course of years, I do not believe that a district service cabinet is subject to the requirements of the Open Meetings Law. That statute is applicable to meetings of public bodies, and the phrase "public body" is defined in §102(2) to mean:
"...any entity for which a quorum is required in order to conduct public business and which consists of two or more members, performing a governmental function for the state or for an agency or department thereof, or for a public corporation as defined in section sixty-six of the general construction law, or committee or subcommittee or other similar body of such public body."
Based on the foregoing, a public body is, in my view, an entity that carries out its duties collectively, as a body. It is my understanding that no motions are made and that no votes or actions are taken at meetings of a district service cabinet. Commentary offered to me indicated that various reports and comments are made concerning a given community within New York City during meetings of a district service cabinet, but that it does not function as a body.
If my assumptions are accurate, a district service cabinet does not have a specific membership, nor would those in attendance function collectively as a body. If that is so, it would not constitute a "public body" subject to the Open Meetings Law.
This is not to suggest that a district service cabinet could not hold meetings open to the public, but rather that I do not believe that it is required to do so.
I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify your understanding of the Open Meetings Law and that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Hon. Tony Avella
District Manager, Community Board 7