May 21, 1993
Mr. Kevin J. Farrelly, President
Bayside Historical Society
P.O. Box 133
Bayside, N.Y. 11361
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. Farrelly:
I have received your letter of May 7.
According to your letter, a member of the Bayside Historical Society asked that the meetings of its Board of Directors be conducted open to the public "under New York's 'sunshine' laws." Although the Society receives some government funding, you wrote that it is a "private tax-exempt not-for-profit corporation." You have asked whether the "sunshine" law is applicable to meetings of the Society's Board of Directors.
In this regard, I offer the following comments.
First, the statute to which you referred that is often characterized as the sunshine law is the New York Open Meetings Law. The provisions of that statute are applicable to meetings of public bodies, and §102(2) of the Law defines the phrase "public body" 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."
Second, historical societies are "type B" not-for-profit corporations according to §1408 of the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law. Type B not-for-profit corporations:
"...may be formed for any one or more of the following non-business purposes: charitable, educational, religious, scientific, literary, cultural or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals" (Not-for-Profit Corporation Law, §201(b)].
In addition, it appears that the visitation and inspection of the premises and records of such a corporation are conferred only upon a justice of the Supreme Court (Not-for-Profit Corporation Law, §114).
In view of the foregoing, in my opinion an historical society is not a public body, for it likely does not conduct what may be characterized as "public business," nor does it perform what may be considered a "governmental function." Assuming the accuracy of this analysis, the meetings of the Society's Board of Directors would not be subject to the Open Meetings Law.
I hope that I have been of some assistance. Should any further questions arise, please feel free to contact me.
Robert J. Freeman