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  December 7, 2000

OML-AO-3248

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

I have received your letter of October 31 in which you sought clarification and guidance
concerning the notice requirements imposed by the Open Meetings Law.

In this regard, §104 of the Open Meetings Law 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."

Stated differently, if a meeting is scheduled at least a week in advance, notice of the time and place must be given to the news media and to the public by means of posting in one or more designated public locations, not less than seventy-two hours prior to the meeting. If a meeting is scheduled less than a week an advance, again, notice of the time and place must be given to the news media and posted in the same manner as described above, "to the extent practicable", at a reasonable time prior to the meeting. Although the Open Meetings Law does not make specific reference to special or emergency meetings, if, for example, there is a need to convene quickly, the notice requirements can generally be met by telephoning the local news media and by posting notice in one or more designated locations.
It is emphasized that notice must be "conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations." Consequently, I believe that a public body must designate, presumably by resolution, the location or locations where it will routinely post notice of meetings. To meet the requirement that notice be "conspicuously posted", notice must in my view be placed at a location that is visible to the public.

Moreover, the judicial interpretation of the Open Meetings Law suggests that the propriety
of scheduling a meeting less than a week in advance is dependent upon the actual need to do so. As stated in Previdi v. Hirsch:

"Whether abbreviated notice is 'practicable' or 'reasonable' in a given case depends on the necessity for same. Here, respondents virtually concede a lack of urgency: They deny petitioner's characterization of the session as an 'emergency' and maintain nothing of substance was transacted at the meeting except to discuss the status of litigation and to authorize, pro forma, their insurance carrier's involvement in negotiations. It is manifest then that the executive session could easily have been scheduled for another date with only minimum delay. In that event respondents could even have provided the more extensive notice required by POL §104(1). Only respondent's choice in scheduling prevented this result.

"Moreover, given the short notice provided by respondents, it should have been apparent that the posting of a single notice in the School District offices would hardly serve to apprise the public that an executive session was being called...

"In White v. Battaglia, 79 A.D. 2d 880, 881, 434 N.Y.S.ed 637, lv. to app. den. 53 N.Y.2d 603, 439 N.Y.S.2d 1027, 421 N.E.2d 854, the Court condemned an almost identical method of notice as one at bar:

"Fay Powell, then president of the board, began contacting board members at 4:00 p.m. on June 27 to ask them to attend a meeting at 7:30 that evening at the central office, which was not the usual meeting date or place. The only notice given to the public was one typewritten announcement posted on the central office bulletin board...Special Term could find on this record that appellants violated the...Public Officers Law...in that notice was not given 'to the extent practicable, to the news media' nor was it 'conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations' at a reasonable time 'prior thereto' (emphasis added)" [524 NYS 2d 643, 645 (1988)].

Based upon the foregoing, merely posting a single notice would fail to comply with the Open Meetings Law, for the Law requires that notice be given to the news media and posted prior to meetings. Further, absent an emergency or urgency, the Court in Previdi suggested that it would be unreasonable to conduct meetings on short notice, unless there is some necessity to do so.

I hope that I have been of assistance.

Sincerely,

 

Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director

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