May 4, 2004
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.
I have received your letter in which you indicated that you are "an elected member of the Albany County Democratic Committee." You asked "how the Open Meetings Law applies to meetings of members of the Albany County Democratic Committee."
In this regard, in short, I do not believe that the Open Meetings Law applies in any way to the entity in question.
The Open Meetings Law 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 on the foregoing, a public body, in general, is a governmental entity. A political party organization may seek to influence the course of government, but is not itself a governmental entity.
Further, even when members of a legislative body, such as a city council or county legislature, are involved in political party activity, the Open Meetings Law ordinarily does not apply. Section 108(2) of the Open Meetings Law exempts political committees, conferences, and caucuses from the requirements of that law, and paragraph (b) states that:
"...for purposes of this section, the deliberations of political committees, conferences and caucuses means a private meeting of members of the senate or assembly of the state of New York, or of the legislative body of a county, city, town or village, who are members or adherents of the same political party, without regard to (i) of the subject matter under discussion, including discussions of public business, (ii) the majority or minority status of such political committees, conferences and caucuses or (iii) whether such political committees, conferences and caucuses invite staff or guests to participate in their deliberations."
It is suggested that you review the rules or by-laws of the Committee, for they may include provisions containing direction that would be responsive to your questions.
I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify your understanding of the Open Meetings Law and that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman