February 11, 1993
Mr. Pat Valentine
P.O. Box 3 RR1
Rodman, N.Y. 13682
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence.
Dear Mr. Valentine:
I have received your letter of January 26. You have requested an advisory opinion concerning the status of a "citizen advisory committee" under the Open Meetings Law. As I understand your letter, the committee was designated to provide advice concerning a regional landfill, and members of the committee have been designated by several agencies.
In this regard, I offer the following comments.
First, the Open Meetings Law is applicable to meetings of public bodies, and §102(2) of that statute defines the phrase "public body" to mean:
"...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."
Second, recent decisions indicate generally that advisory ad hoc entities, other than committees consisting solely of members of public body, having no power to take final action fall outside the scope of the Open Meetings Law. As stated in those decisions: "it has long been held that the mere giving of advice, even about governmental matters is not itself a governmental function" [Goodson-Todman Enterprises, Ltd. v. Town Board of Milan, 542 NYS 2d 373, 374, 151 AD 2d 642 (1989); Poughkeepsie Newspapers v. Mayor's Intergovernmental Task Force, 145 AD 2d 65, 67 (1989); see also New York Public Interest Research Group v. Governor's Advisory Commission, 507 NYS 2d 798, aff'd with no opinion, 135 AD 2d 1149, motion for leave to appeal denied, 71 NY 2d 964 (1988)]. Therefore, an advisory body such as a citizens' advisory committee would not in my opinion be subject to the Open Meetings Law.
Lastly, while the committee in question does not appear to be subject to the Open Meetings Law, there is no provision that would preclude the committee from conducting open meetings or that would prohibit the committee from conducting open meetings.
As you requested, enclosed is a copy of "Your Right to Know".
I hope that I have been of some assistance. Should any further questions arise, please feel free to contact me.
Robert J. Freeman