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October 19, 1994

 

 

Mr. Kevin P. Gorman
6 Jervis Road
Yonkers, NY 10705

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.

Dear Mr. Gorman:

I have received your letter of September 19, which reached this office on September 26. You have requested an advisory opinion involving the Open Meetings Law.

You questioned whether the Charter Revision Committee designated by the City of Yonkers must comply with the Open Meetings Law. Additionally, if it is subject to that statute, you asked whether it complied with the notice requirements imposed by the Law. You referred specifically to a meeting held on September 1 at 6 p.m. and indicated that the "only public information of the meeting was printed in daily news portion of The Herald Statesman, a local paper. The article appeared in the Tuesday August 30, 1994, issue which was not available to the public until after 6 A.M. of that date." You asked "whether the 72 hour notification is satisfied by publishing a notice at 6 A.M. on a Tuesday calling for a meeting at 6 P.M. on Thursday. The number of hours total 60", and you contended that "Even if the publication was said to be 12:01 Tuesday, the number of hours would be 66."

In this regard, I offer the following comments.

First, the Open Meetings Law is applicable to meetings of public bodies, and the phrase "public body" is defined in §102(2) of the Open Meetings Law to include:

"...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."

In my opinion, a city charter commission created by a city constitutes a public body subject to the Open Meetings Law, even though its authority may be advisory. When an advisory body is created by statute, it has been held that such a body falls within the requirements of the Open Meetings Law [see MFY Legal Services v. Toia, 93 Misc. 2d 147, 402 NYS 2d 510 (1977)]. In this instance, a statute authorizes the creation of a charter commission. Specifically, §36 of the Municipal Home Rule Law indicates that a legislative body may adopt a local law providing for the establishment of a city charter committee or that such a commission may be created by the mayor of any city. Consequently, it is my view that the entity in question was required to comply with the Open Meetings Law.

Second, the Open Meetings Law requires that notice of the time and place be given by a public body prior to every meeting. Section 104 of that statute 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 each 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."

Subdivision (3) specifies that the notice required to be given need not be a legal notice. Consequently, there is no requirement that a public body pay to place a legal notice prior to a meeting. Further, while the Open Meetings Law requires that notice be given to the news media, the news media is not obliged to publish the notice. When a newspaper, for example, chooses to publicize a meeting, I believe that it may do so at any time. Certainly a newspaper is not bound by the Open Meetings Law to print the notice at any particular time prior to a meeting. I hope that the foregoing serves to enhance your understanding of the Open Meetings Law.

Sincerely,

 

Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director

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cc: Yonkers City Charter Commission