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December 14, 1995

 

 

Mr. Steven R. Trimboli
44-10 Ketcham Street
Elmhurst, NY 11373

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. Trimboli:

I have received your letter of November 28 in which you questioned the status of meetings of a "District Cabinet" under the Open Meetings Law.

In this regard, having discussed the issue with a representative of the Office of the New York City Corporation Counsel, a district cabinet, which is characterized in the New York City Charter as a "district service cabinet", does not appear to be a public body. If that is so, its meetings would not be subject to the Open Meetings Law.

The Open Meetings Law is applicable to public bodies, and the phrase "public body" is defined in §102(2) of that statute 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. The information shared by the Office of Corporation Counsel 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.

By way of background, 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.

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.

In contrast, as you are aware, community boards have a specific membership, they have clear responsibilities described in §2800 of the City Charter, and the members function by voting and taking collective action as a body. Issues pertaining to community boards have been discussed with various officials of New York City government over the course of years, and, in view of their legal characteristics, their functions and their duties, there has been no dispute concerning their inclusion under the Open Meetings Law.

I hope that the foregoing serves to enhance your understanding of the matter. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

 

Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director

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