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OML-AO-4912

E-MAIL

From:   Freeman, Robert (DOS)
Sent:    Friday, May 28, 2010 3:19 PM
To:      

Dear

I have received your letter in which you referred to my confirmation of your understanding that “SUNY (a corporation) cannot rely upon section 105(1)(f) to discuss its own financial history qua corporation.”  You requested any written opinions that might focus on that issue.

In this regard, although the advice to which you referred has been expressed on several occasions, having searched our opinions, I do not believe that any written opinion has directly addressed the issue. 

I note that counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts, fire districts, public authorities and the like are public corporations.  If the boards that serve those entities could rely on section 105(1)(f) as a means of conducting executive sessions, virtually all discussions concerning the development of their budgets, the potential purchase of goods and services and numerous other issues could be considered in executive session.  Nevertheless, it is clear, in my view, that issues of that nature must in most instances be discussed in public to comply with the Open Meetings Law, particularly when they involve matters of policy, such as the need to create or eliminate positions or programs.  Those discussions often involve what might be characterized as an entity’s “financial history.”  Nevertheless, it has never been found that they may validly be considered during executive sessions. 

In short, I believe that your understanding of the application of section 105(1)(f) as it pertains to a discussion by the SUNY Board of Trustees of its own financial history, that section 105(01)(f) could not properly be asserted, is correct.

I hope that I have been of assistance.

Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director
Committee on Open Government
Department of State
One Commerce Plaza, Suite 650
99 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12231
Phone: (518)474-2518
Fax: (518)474-1927
Website: www.dos.ny.gov/coog/index.html