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OML-AO-5379

From: Freeman, Robert (DOS)
Sent: Tuesday, October 08, 2013 12:44 PM
To:
Subject: RE: Application of the OML

I have received your note in which you sought to distinguish “Public Statement Hearings” from a
“Technical Conference” relative to the application of the Open Meetings Law. I fully concur with the
views that you expressed.

As you aware, the Open Meetings Law pertains to meetings of public bodies. The term “meeting” has
been construed to mean a gathering of a quorum of a public body for the purpose of conducting public
business, collectively, as a body, irrespective the absence of an intent to take action, and regardless of
the manner in which the gathering is characterized.

The “Public Statement Hearing” as you described it typically involves a situation in which the members
of the Commission constituting a quorum interact with one another and others who may be
present. You referred to a “deliberative process”, and that phrase appears in the statement of intent
appearing at the beginning of the Open Meetings Law. In short, when a quorum gathers and engages in
a deliberative process, it is clear, in my opinion, that the gathering constitutes a “meeting” that falls
within the coverage of the Open Meetings Law.

In contrast, when members of a public body are part of an audience and do not deliberate or function
collectively, as a body, I do not believe that their presence, even if a majority is in the same room, could
be considered a meeting of the body. There have been numerous circumstances in which I have
conducted training programs when a member of a board indicates that several other members of the
board are in the audience in various locations and asks whether their presence constitutes a meeting
that is being held in violation of law. My response has been consistent, that although a majority of a
board may be physically present in an audience or training session, since the members are not
conducting public business as a body, the Open Meetings Law would not apply.

Once again, I agree with your interpretation, and I hope that I have been of assistance.

Best as always,
Bob