April 4, 2003
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
As you are aware, I have received your letter of March 24 in which you raised a series of
questions concerning the Open Meetings Law.
By way of background, you wrote that a motion was made to enter into executive session "to discuss health insurance." When you asked that the Clerk review the eight areas appropriate for consideration in executive session that appear in §105(1) of the Open Meetings Law, you contended that there was no basis for discussing the matter in private. Some time later, the Board member who made the motion referred to Article XIV of the Civil Service Law, the Public Employees Fair Employment Act, which is also known as the "Taylor Law", and expressed the belief that it authorized the Board to conduct an executive session to discuss the matter that was the subject of his motion. He referred specifically to §§204-a and 209. You wrote that since there is "no organized labor" in the Town of Sandy Creek, those provisions appear to be inapplicable.
Sections 204-a and 209 pertain respectively to "[a]greements between public employers and employee organizations" and "[r]esolution of disputes in the course of collective negotiations." An employee organization for the purposes of those provisions is a public employee union, and collective bargaining involves the process of negotiation between a public employer, such as a municipality, and a public employee union. If the employees of the Town of Sandy Creek are not members of an employee organization, a union, I believe that your contention was accurate, for the provisions cited by the Board member would not apply.
Lastly, since "it is at the discretion of the Town Clerk if personal opinions are included in
the minutes", you asked whether incorrect and misleading information [may] be deleted from the minutes before they are approved at the next board meeting." In this regard, §106 of the Open Meetings Law pertains to minutes of meetings and states 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. Reference to personal opinions expressed during meetings need not be included in the minutes at all. Therefore, whether a personal opinion is considered to accurate or misleading, there is no requirement that it be included in the minutes. If information contained in draft or unapproved minutes is inaccurate, I believe that the Board has the authority to take action to attempt to correct the inaccuracy.
I hope that I have been of assistance.