January 10, 1995
Mrs. Linda LeMoyne
6262 Big Tree Road
Livonia, NY 14487
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.
Dear Mrs. LeMoyne:
I have received your letter of November 21, which reached this office on November 28. Please accept my apologies for the delay in response. You have sought an advisory opinion concerning "the legality of an executive session to discuss contractual negotiations."
According to your letter, when a motion was made to discuss "contractual negotiations" in executive session, you asked the Supervisor whether the negotiations involved the Taylor Law, and he responded in the negative. Further, even though you offered information describing the grounds for entry into executive session and objected to the motion, the Board nonetheless moved into executive session.
In this regard, I offer the following comments.
First, as you are likely aware, the Open Meetings Law requires that meetings of public bodies must be conducted open to the public, unless there is a basis for entry into an executive session. The subjects that may properly be considered in executive session are specified in paragraphs (a) through (h) of §105(1) of the Open Meetings Law. Because those subjects are limited, a public body cannot conduct an executive session to discuss the subject of its choice.
Second, although certain "contractual negotiations" may be conducted or discussed in executive session, not all such negotiations fall within the grounds for entry into executive session. The only provision that pertains specifically to negotiations, §105(1)(e), deals with collective bargaining negotiations between a public employer and a public employee union under Article 14 of the Civil Service Law, which is commonly known as the Taylor Law. Third, there is a different ground for entry into executive session that may, depending upon the nature of the discussion, be asserted to discuss certain matters pertaining to contract negotiations. Section 105(1)(f) authorizes a public body to enter into executive session to discuss:
"the medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation..."
In some instances, a public body's discussion might focus on the financial or credit history of a particular corporation. To the extent that a discussion involves such matters, I believe that an executive session could properly be held. However, it is reiterated that the ability to discuss or engage in "contractual negotiations" in executive session is limited.
I hope that I have been of some assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Town Board