Mr. Robert F. Reninger
250 Knollwood Road
White Plains, NY 10607
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. Reninger:
I have received your transmittal of February 23 in which you referred to my response to your inquiry of January 16. You wrote that my reply does not seem to address certain issues, and you asked for further clarification concerning "the proper way to correct minutes."
You referred to a situation in which minutes of a meeting were amended by a committee by means of a motion "to remove five sentences from the minutes." Nevertheless, the minutes consist of more than twenty pages and you questioned how the public can know which sentences were deleted, particularly since the motion does "not state anywhere which specific five sentences are being deleted by the motion."
In this regard, I know of no judicial decision that deals directly with the manner in which minutes must be amended or the accuracy of minutes. As suggested in the earlier opinion, it is implicit in my view that minutes must be accurate and contain at least as much detail as is required by the Open Meetings Law or other applicable statute.
I believe, however, that a mere reference to the removal of five sentences, without indication of their substance or location, would be inadequate. The only decision of which I am aware that may be pertinent to the matter is Mitzner v. Goshen Central School District Board of Education [Supreme Court, Orange County, April 15, 1993]. That case involved a series of complaints made by the petitioner that were reviewed by the School Board president, and the minutes of the Board meeting stated that "the Board hereby ratifies the action of the President in signing and issuing eight Determinations in regard to complaints received from Mr. Bernard Mitzner." The court held that "these bare-bones resolutions do not qualify as a record or summary of the final determination as required" by §106 of the Open Meetings Law. As such, the court found that the failure to indicate the nature of the determination of the complaints was inadequate. In the context of your question, I believe that, in order to comply with the Open Meetings Law and to be consistent with the thrust of the holding in Mitzner, minutes must indicate in some manner which five sentences were removed in order that the public can know of the precise nature of the committee's action.
I hope that I have been of some assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Fire District Advisory Committee