May 24, 2001
FROM: Robert J. Freeman, Executive Director
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, unless otherwise indicated.
As you are aware, I have received your inquiry concerning the status of the Chautauqua
Institution Architectural Review Board under the Open Meetings Law. Following our discussion, I contacted Town officials in order to learn more of the matter. Based upon information supplied by Town officials, I do not believe that the entity in question is required to comply with the Open Meetings Law.
In this regard, that statute is applicable to meetings of public bodies, and §102(2) defines the phrase "public body" 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 upon the language quoted above, a public body, in brief, would be an entity consisting of two or more members that conducts public business and performs a governmental function for one or more governmental entities.
In a letter sent to me by John W. Beckman, Town Attorney for the Town of Chautauqua, it
was stated that:
"Chautauqua Institution is a not-for-profit corporation formed and governed by special acts of the State Legislature and operates without financial assistance of the town, county, or State of New York. Its land use regulations are based on deed restrictions rather than zoning. For these and other reasons, we do not believe Chautauqua Institute falls within the ambit of the Freedom of Information Law (Article 6 of the Public Officers Law)."
Although Mr. Beckman referred to the Freedom of Information Law, I believe that his comments are also pertinent concerning the status of the Institute and the Board in question under the Open Meetings Law. If the Institute is indeed separate and distinct from government and the decision concerning your property to which you referred is based upon deed restrictions rather than an assertion of any governmental authority, I do not believe that the entity in question would be subject to either the Open Meetings or Freedom of Information Laws.
I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify your understanding of the matter and that I have
been of assistance.
cc: John. W. Beckman
Hon. James Weidman, III, Town Supervisor