February 25, 2005
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.
As you are aware, I have received your correspondence concerning the status of a “Master Plan Committee” in the Town of Poughkeepsie. You indicated that the Committee’s functions are advisory in nature and that it consists of two members of the Town Board, one member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, the chairmen of the Planning Board and Conservation Advisory Commission, and a local builder.
You have asked whether the committee is subject to the Open Meetings Law.
In this regard, the Open Meetings is applicable to meetings of public bodies, and §102(2) of the Open Meetings Law 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."
It has been held that advisory bodies are not required to comply with the Open Meetings Law [see e.g., NYPRIG v. Governor’s Advisory Commission, 507 NYS2d 798, aff’d with no opinion, 135 AD2d 1149, motion for leave to appeal denied, 71 NY2d 964 (1988); Poughkeepsie Newspaper v. Mayor’s Intergovernmental Task Force on New York City Water Supply Needs. 145 AD2d 65 (1989)].
However, in this instance, the Committee may be a creation of law. Section 272-a of the Town Law entitled “Town comprehensive plan” includes reference to a “special board.” That phrase is defined in subdivision (2)(c) of §272-a to mean:
“...a board consisting of one or more members of the planning board and such other members as are appointed by the town board to prepare a proposed comprehensive plan and/or amendment thereto.”
If the Committee is a “special board”, because it would have been created pursuant to a statute, I believe that it would constitute a “public body” subject to the Open Meetings Law. If it is not a special board created by law, I do not believe that it would fall within the coverage of the Open Meetings Law.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
cc: Town Board