March 11, 1998
Hon. Joan M. Caruso
Town of Woodbury
P.O. Box 1004
Highland Mills, NY 10930
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 Supervisor Caruso:
I have received your letter of February 23 in which you asked that I confirm in writing an opinion offered during a telephone conversation.
You referred to a special meeting held by the Woodbury Town Board "to discuss a water improvement project." You added that "[i]t was advertised as such, along with the time, date and place of the meeting." However, during the meeting, the Board added items that led to certain actions taken. At an ensuing meeting, a member of the public "suggested this was an illegal meeting as [you] did not advertise" that you were going to take those additional actions. You indicated that the Board has no rule requiring the disclosure of an agenda prior to meeting, and you asked whether the Board must "advertise an agenda" in advance of its meetings.
In this regard, I offer the following comments.
First, there are two statutes that relate to notice of special meetings held by town boards. The phrase "special meeting" is found in §62(2) of the Town Law. That provision, from my perspective, deals with unscheduled meetings, rather than meetings that are regularly scheduled, and states in relevant part that:
"The supervisor of any town may, and upon written request of two members of board shall within ten days, call a special meeting of the town board by giving at least two days notice in writing to the members of the board of the time when and place where the meeting is to be held".
The provision quoted above pertains to notice given to members of a town board, and the requirements imposed by that provision are separate from those contained in the Open Meetings Law. Section 104 of that statute provides that:
"1. Public notice of the time and place of a meeting scheduled at least one week prior thereto shall be given to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at least seventy-two hours before each meeting.
2. Public notice of the time and place of every other meeting shall be given, to the extent practicable, to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at a reasonable time prior thereto.
3. The public notice provided for by this section shall not be construed to require publication as a legal notice."
Both statutes require that notice of the time and place of a meeting be given; neither contains a requirement that notice include an agenda or reference to the subject matter of a meeting.
Second, there is nothing in the Open Meetings Law or any other law of which I am aware that deals specifically with agendas. While many public bodies prepare agendas, the Open Meetings Law does not require that they do so. Similarly, the Open Meetings Law does not require that a prepared agenda be followed. However, a public body on its own initiative may adopt rules or procedures concerning the preparation and use of agendas.
I hope that the foregoing serves to enhance your understanding of the matter and that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman