September 6, 2001
I have received your letter of August 8 in which you referred to an issue raised in previous
correspondence. Specifically, you have sought "another advisory opinion" concerning the propriety of meetings held at 8 a.m. by the Elma Town Board.
Having reviewed my response to you of June 26, I do not believe that I can offer an opinion that is substantially different from that response. From my perspective, however, even though the decision that was cited involved a board of education, it serves as useful precedent regarding meetings of all governmental bodies subject to the Open Meetings Law. In short, while that statute does not indicate precisely when meetings must or must not be held, it is reiterated that every law must in my opinion be implemented in a manner that gives reasonable effect to its intent.
In the case involving the board of education, I believe that the court found that, in consideration of the facts presented, meetings held early in the morning would effectively preclude many of those interested in attending from doing so, and that, consequently, it was unreasonable to hold meetings at that time. If the factual circumstances in the Town of Elma involve the same result, that those interested in attending do not have a reasonable opportunity to do so, I believe that a court would find that it is unreasonable to hold meetings early in the morning as has been the case. On the other hand, if, due to the nature of the community, those residents of the Town of Elma interested in attending do have a reasonable opportunity to attend the meetings in question, a court would, in my view, likely hold that the scheduling of those meetings is not unreasonable or inconsistent with the intent of the Open Meetings Law.
Since you referred to reporters for a local newspaper, perhaps you might contact the
newspaper to suggest that it conduct a survey of its readers in an attempt to gauge the community's views concerning the reasonableness of holding meetings at 8 a.m. If that could be accomplished, you and the Town Board could ascertain the general sentiments of the Town's residents.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Town Board
Rosemary Bapst, Town Attorney