August 29, 2005
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.
I have received your letter in which you referred to a meeting of the Village of Saranac Lake Board of Trustees during which the Board discussed "details of the administrative contracts" pertaining to "higher level" appointed officials who are not represented by unions.
In this regard, as you are likely aware, paragraphs (a) through (h) of §105(1) of the Open Meetings Law specify and limit the subjects that may properly be considered during an executive session. Paragraph (e) pertains to "collective negotiations pursuant to article fourteen of the civil service law", which, stated differently, refers to collective bargaining negotiations involving a public employee union. If the officials whose contracts were the subject of the discussion, §105(1)(e) would not have applied, for those officials are not union members.
The only other ground for entry into executive session that might have been applicable, §105(1)(f), permits a public body, such as the Board of Trustees, to enter into executive session to discuss:
"the medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation..."
If, for example, the appointed officials to whom you referred were considered as a group, i.e., for "across the board" consideration of appointees, I do not believe that there would have been a basis for entry into executive session. If the discussion pertained to a position, irrespective of the identity of the incumbent of the position, and the discussion concerned a comparison of salaries paid to those in similar positions in other municipalities, again, in my view, there would have been no basis for conducting an executive session. In neither of those instances would the discussion have focused on any "particular person." In the former, the discussion would have involved several officials treated collectively; in the latter, the discussion would have involved positions, rather than the individuals who hold them.
On the other hand, if the discussion focused on a particular person in relation to his or her performance, i.e., his or her employment history, or a matter leading to his or her promotion or demotion, to that extent, I believe that an executive session could properly have been held.
I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify your understanding and that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman