October 16, 2009
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 asked whether the Open Meetings Law applies to meetings of the Interagency Committee on Sustainability and Green Procurement. In this regard, I offer the following brief comments.
Executive Order #4, issued in April of 2008, includes the appointment of 11 leaders of state agencies as ex-officio members of the Interagency Committee and indicates that “a majority of the members of the Committee shall constitute a quorum, and all actions and recommendations of the Committee shall require approval of a majority of the total members of the Committee.” The Committee’s responsibilities include, annually, the selection of “priority categories” of commodities, services or technology, the preparation of “green procurement lists” and “‘green procurement specifications’ for use by State agencies and public authorities in the procurement of commodities, services and technology.” The Committee is further required to develop procurement specifications for new contracts, establish “specific goals to achieve reasonable reductions in the amount of solid waste generated and paper consumed annually by State agencies and authorities”, and “shall also develop and implement strategies to assist State agencies and authorities to achieve such reduction goals.”
Based on the provisions of the Executive Order, I believe that the Interagency Committee is required to comply with the Open Meetings Law.
That statute is applicable to meetings of public bodies, and §102(2) defines the phrase “public body” to include:
"...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."
Executive Order #4 indicates that the Committee was created by the Governor to conduct public business, collectively as a body and to perform a governmental function, for it must carry out and implement certain functions specified in the Order. Further, the Order states that the Committee must carry out its duties in accordance with a quorum requirement. In sum, I believe that each of the ingredients necessary to find that the Committee constitutes a “public body” is present.
I note that many entities created by executive order have solely advisory functions, and that in those instances, it has been advised that they do not constitute public bodies subject to the Open Meetings Law. In this instance, however, the Committee has the authority to making binding decisions and to create standards with which state agencies must comply. For that reason, I believe that it constitutes a public body required to comply with the Open Meetings Law.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Jeffrey Pearlman