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OML-AO-4862

E-MAIL

From:   Jobin-Davis, Camille (DOS)
Sent:    Thursday, February 04, 2010 1:20 PM
To:      
Subject:           Open Meetings Law - intent to circumvent
Attachments:   tri-village.doc

 

As promised, links to two advisory opinions and a copy of Tri-Village Publishers, Inc. v St. Johnsville Board of Education, 110 AD2d 932, 487 NYS2d 181 (3rd Dept., 1985), attached.

http://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/otext/o4250.htm  (see paragraph towards end that begins
“Lastly…”)

http://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/otext/o3732.htm  (where a majority of the board took action via
telephone)

Further, please note our explanation of recent amendments to the Open Meetings Law, available on our website, and as follows:

An amendment to §107(1) of the Open Meetings Law is intended to improve compliance and to ensure that public business is discussed in public as required by that law. Effective August 5, 2008, the new provision states that when it is found by a court that a public body voted in private “in material violation” of the law “or that substantial deliberations occurred in private” that should have occurred in public, the court “shall award costs and reasonable attorney’s fees” to the person or entity that initiated the lawsuit.

The mandatory award of attorney’s fees would apply only when secrecy is the issue. In other instances, those in which the matter involves compliance with other aspects of the Open Meetings Law, such as a failure to fully comply with notice requirements, the sufficiency of a motion for entry into executive session, or the preparation of minutes in a timely manner, the award of attorney’s fees by a court would remain, as it has since 1977, discretionary.

The intent of the amendment is not to encourage litigation. On the contrary, it is intended to enhance compliance and to encourage members of public bodies and those who serve them to be more knowledgeable regarding their duty to abide by the Open Meetings Law.

Please let me know if you have further questions.

Camille S. Jobin-Davis, Esq.
Assistant Director
NYS Committee on Open Government
99 Washington Ave, Suite 650
Albany NY 12231
Tel: 518-474-2518
Fax: 518-474-1927
http://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/index.html