September 25, 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 information presented in your
I have received your letter in which you sought assistance. You wrote that, in your capacity as Executive Director of the Town of Oyster Bay Housing Authority, you have been the target of "abusive, abrasive" and critical comments by a particular member of the Authority. When you asked that he refrain from so doing, you also asked that your comment be included in the minutes. Nevertheless, the minutes do not include your statement, and you asked what your recourse might be.
In this regard, the Open Meetings Law contains what might be characterized as minimum
requirements concerning the contents of minutes. Specifically, §106 of the Open Meetings Law provides that:
"1. Minutes shall be taken at all open meetings of a public body which shall consist of a record or summary of all motions, proposals, resolutions and any other matter formally voted upon and the vote thereon.
2. Minutes shall be taken at executive sessions of any action that is taken by formal vote which shall consist of a record or summary of the final determination of such action, and the date and vote thereon; provided, however, that such summary need not include any matter which is not required to be made public by the freedom of information law as added by article six of this chapter.
3. Minutes of meetings of all public bodies shall be available to the
public in accordance with the provisions of the freedom of
information law within two weeks from the date of such meetings
except that minutes taken pursuant to subdivision two hereof shall be
available to the public within one week from the date of the executive session."
Based on the foregoing, minutes need not consist of a verbatim account of everything that was said; on the contrary, so long as the minutes include the kinds of information described in §106, I believe that they would be appropriate and meet legal requirements. Most importantly, I believe that minutes must be accurate.
In similar situations, such as those in which members of public bodies have met with
resistance when attempting to include their comments in the minutes, it has been advised that a motion be made to include their statements in the minutes. If such a motion is approved, the inclusion of a statement is guaranteed. I recognize that you are not a member of the Authority. Nevertheless, I believe that you may ask any member to introduce a similar motion in an effort to ensure that your statement becomes part of the minutes.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman