August 5, 2002
FROM: Robert J. Freeman, Executive Director
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 inquiry in which you asked "whether a three member board of assessment review has to take minutes as to how they came to a conclusion and how each member voted as to the decision to deny a request."
In this regard, a board of assessment review is in my view clearly a "public body" required to comply with the Open Meetings Law [see Open Meetings Law, §102(2)]. While meetings of public bodies generally must be conducted in public unless there is a basis for entry into executive session, following public proceedings conducted by boards of assessment review, I believe that their deliberations could be characterized as "quasi-judicial proceedings" that would be exempt from the Open Meetings Law pursuant to §108(1) of that statute. It is emphasized, however, that even when the deliberations of such a board may be outside the coverage of the Open Meetings Law, its vote and other matters would not be exempt. As stated in Orange County Publications v. City of Newburgh:
"there is a distinction between that portion of a meeting...wherein the members collectively weigh evidence taken during a public hearing, apply the law and reach a conclusion and that part of its proceedings in which its decision is announced, the vote of its members taken and all of its other regular business is conducted. The latter is clearly non-judicial and must be open to the public, while the former is indeed judicial in nature, as it affects the rights and liabilities of individuals" [60 AD 2d 409,418 (1978)].
Therefore, although an assessment board of review may deliberate in private, based upon the decision cited above, the act of voting or taking action must in my view occur during a meeting.
Moreover, both the Freedom of Information Law and the Open Meetings Law impose record- keeping requirements upon public bodies. With respect to minutes of open meetings, §106(1) of the Open Meetings Law states that:
"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."
The minutes are not required to indicate "how they came to a conclusion"; however, I believe that the conclusion itself, i.e., a motion or resolution, must be included in minutes.
Lastly, since its enactment, the Freedom of Information Law has contained a related requirement in §87(3). The provision states in part that:
"Each agency shall maintain:
(a) a record of the final vote of each member in every agency proceeding in which the member votes..."
In sum, because an assessment board of review is a "public body" and an "agency", I believe that it is required to prepare minutes in accordance with §106 of the Open Meetings Law, including a record of the votes of each member in conjunction with §87(3)(a) of the Freedom of Information Law.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
cc: Board of Assessment Review