From: Freeman, Robert (DOS)
Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2009 12:51 PM
Subject: Political committee
I have received your inquiry in which you questioned the status of a certain political party
meeting in relation to the Open Meetings Law.
You indicated that the town board in your community consists of 2 republicans and three
democrats, and that the three democrats “have requested a meeting with the Democratic Committee
to discuss the Committee’s status i.e. plans for support, campaigns, caucus, etc.”
In my opinion, the gathering as you described it would clearly be exempt from the coverage of the Open Meetings Law for two reasons. First, a “meeting” according to §102(1) of that law is a convening of a majority of a public body for the purpose of conducting public business. The gathering in question, as I understand it, would not involve public business, but rather political party business. And second, §108(2)(a) of the Open Meetings Law exempts “deliberations of political committees conferences and caucuses” from the requirements of that law. Further, 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 of adherents of the same political party, without regard to (i) 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…”
In short, it is reiterated that the meeting to which you referred would, in my opinion, be exempt from the Open Meetings Law.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
Committee on Open Government
Department of State
One Commerce Plaza
99 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12231