September 25, 1997
Mr. Jerry Brixner
14 Hartom Road
Rochester, NY 14624
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. Brixner:
I have received your letter of September 3. You described a special meeting conducted by the Town Board during which a bid opening occurred. You have asked whether "a citizen or any individual [may] ask questions during an Opening of Bids activity."
In this regard, I am unaware of any provision of law that provides a right on the part of the public to speak or ask questions during either a meeting or a bid opening. Although the Open Meetings Law clearly provides a right on the part of any member of the public to attend a meeting of a public body, that statute is silent with respect to public participation. Therefore, a public body may choose to prohibit the public from speaking at meetings. On the other hand, many public bodies authorize public participation, and it has been suggested in those instances that they should do so by means of reasonable rules that treat members of the public equally.
It is noted that §103(2) of the General Municipal Law requires that "All bids received shall be publicly opened and read at the time and place so specified" in a notice required by §103. However, that statute, like the Open Meetings Law, is silent with respect to the ability or right of members of the public to speak or ask questions at such an event.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Town Board