Open Meetings Law to include papers

Members of the public won’t have to scratch their heads wondering what their elected officials are t

Members of the public won’t have to scratch their heads wondering what their elected officials are talking about once local governments begin complying with a change in the state’s Open Meetings Law that goes into effect Thursday.

It happens often: Members of a city council or town board bring a document to review and start referring each other to specific paragraphs or pages while those in the public gallery wonder what’s going on.

Starting this week, public bodies are required to make proposed resolutions, rules, regulations, laws and policies available online prior to their meeting. Or, they can make copies of these documents available for the public, at a cost, when the meeting takes place.

“This will dramatically increase how meaningful the Open Meetings Law can be to so many people,” said Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government.

More online

Details on the new requirements of the state Open Meetings Law can be found on the website of the state Committee on Open Government at

The law affects any public body that’s required to comply with provisions of the state’s Open Meetings Law, such as school districts, counties, towns and villages, to the “extent practicable.”

Some entities don’t have websites.

The Fonda-Fultonville Central School District makes agendas for its Board of Education meeting available on its website, and Superintendent James Hoffman said he expects more information will be made available now.

“It’s one step that we hadn’t done. Any time we’re going to be discussing any particular thing and there’s a document involved, I guess we’ll have to include those documents,” he said.

He said the law adds another layer of mandates on public bodies like school districts, but it’s “not a big deal.”

Though he hasn’t sat in the public section of a board of education meeting, Hoffman said he’s had an inkling folks attending meetings must be frustrated wondering what board members are talking about.

“I sometimes think they must. I think if I was out there, that’s what I’d be doing,” Hoffman said.

In the event it’s not possible to get documents on the Web before a meeting, public bodies can make them available, at a standard per-page cost, to those who attend the meetings.

Hoffman said he didn’t see that as much of a revenue generator because the district tries to provide requested documents in PDF format when possible.

In Schoharie County, Board of Supervisors Clerk and county spokeswoman Karen Miller said it will take some doing, but she expects the county ultimately will comply with the changes.

Though the county has an active website, only minutes of monthly Board of Supervisors meetings are posted after the meeting.

Currently, there’s no agenda available for these meetings on the Web prior to the meeting, nor any agenda for the county board’s committees, nor the documents those committees bring to the county board meeting.

Often, meaningful resolutions adopted by the Schoharie County board come from discussions in committees.

Miller said there’s been discussion about the possibility of getting minutes of the board’s committee meetings on the Internet, as well.

“Initially, it’s going to be a little bit more work for us to do. Once we get a routine going, I don’t think it will be difficult to keep up,” Miller said.

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply