More than two years after New York state required groups subject to the Open Meetings Law to post meeting material on their websites, many government agencies in the Tri-Lakes area have not yet complied.
Groups such as town, village, county, state and school boards and committees are subject to the Open Meetings Law, administered through the New York Department of State's Committee on Open Government.
We're talking about Section 103(e) of the Open Meetings Law, which became law on Feb. 2, 2012.
In plain English, those meeting packets that board members get for their meetings - the resolutions, minutes, letters, etc., that they will be discussing during the meeting - must be available to the public prior to or during the meeting. Furthermore, the information packet must be posted on the group's website.
We won't name names now, but the local village, town, county, state and school boards and committees that don't start uploading this meeting information to their websites will soon be called out and held accountable. We are glad to say that some are already posting their meeting material to their websites.
Need further proof that this is state law? Here is a Q&A from the Committee on Open Government's website:
"Q. Must agencies post records online, even though no request has been made to do so?
"A. To accomplish the goals of the legislation, yes, an agency must do so when practicable. ... The report, 'Evaluating the Importance of Technology,' offers sources of inexpensive technical guidance."
The Committee on Open Government is responsible for overseeing and advising with regard to the Freedom of Information Law, the Open Meetings Law and the Personal Privacy Protection Law. Staff gives advice to the government, the public and the news media. For more information, visit www.dos.ny.gov/coog/index.html.
And in case you hadn't guessed, yes, this is Sunshine Week, March is a time when we in the North Country crave warm sunshine outdoors, and it's also a good time to think about shining some rays into the dark corners of government.
For your reference, below is Section 103 of the New York state Open Meetings Law.
Section 103: Open meetings and executive sessions.
(a) Every meeting of a public body shall be open to the general public, except that an executive session of such body may be called and business transacted thereat in accordance with section one hundred five of this article.
(b) Public bodies shall make or cause to be made all reasonable efforts to ensure that meetings are held in facilities that permit barrier-free physical access to the physically handicapped, as defined in subdivision five of section fifty of the public buildings law.
(c) A public body that uses videoconferencing to conduct its meetings shall provide an opportunity to attend, listen and observe at any site at which a member participates.
(d) Public bodies shall make or cause to be made all reasonable efforts to ensure that meetings are held in an appropriate facility which can adequately accommodate members of the public who wish to attend such meetings.
1. Any meeting of a public body that is open to the public shall be open to being photographed, broadcast, webcast, or otherwise recorded and/or transmitted by audio or video means. As used herein the term "broadcast" shall also include the transmission of signals by cable.
2. A public body may adopt rules, consistent with recommendations from the committee on open government, reasonably governing the location of equipment and personnel used to photograph, broadcast, webcast, or otherwise record a meeting so as to conduct its proceedings in an orderly manner. Such rules shall be conspicuously posted during meetings and written copies shall be provided upon request to those in attendance.
(e) Agency records available to the public pursuant to article six of this chapter, as well as any proposed resolution, law, rule, regulation, policy or any amendment thereto, that is scheduled to be the subject of discussion by a public body during an open meeting shall be made available, upon request therefor, to the extent practicable as determined by the agency or the department, prior to or at the meeting during which the records will be discussed. Copies of such records may be made available for a reasonable fee, determined in the same manner as provided therefor in article six of this chapter. If the agency in which a public body functions maintains a regularly and routinely updated website and utilizes a high speed internet connection, such records shall be posted on the website to the extent practicable as determined by the agency or the department, prior to the meeting. An agency may, but shall not be required to, expend additional moneys to implement the provisions of this subdivision.