February 27, 2001
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence.
As you are aware, I have received your letter of February 13 in which you raised a series of questions. As indicated during our conversation of February 15, the advisory jurisdiction of the Committee on Open Government is limited to matters relating to open government statutes. Therefore, the following commentary will be limited to the issue concerning the site of meetings held by a village board of trustees.
In this regard, there is nothing in the Open Meetings Law or any other provision of law of
which I am aware that specifies that meetings of boards of trustees must be conducted within the boundaries of a village. Nevertheless, in my view, every provision of law, including the Open Meetings Law, must be carried out in a manner that gives reasonable effect to its intent. Section 100 of that statute, the legislative declaration, states in part that: "It is essential...that the public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens of this state be fully aware of and able to observe the performance of public officials and attend and listen to the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy." In my opinion, a meeting of a board of trustees, or any municipal body, must be held at a location where members of the public who might want to attend could reasonably do so. While I do not believe that a specific distance can be determined to
be too far from or within reasonable distance of the boundaries of a village for the purpose of holding a meeting. I note that it has been held that meetings held by a board of education twenty miles away from the district it serves was found to be unreasonable and inconsistent with law (see Goetschius v. Board of Education, Supreme Court, Westchester County, March 8, 1999).
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman