SCOTIA & COBLESKILL — The mayor of Scotia is defending the low grade the village received by a coalition that watches whether municipal governments follow state Open Meetings Law, while the mayor of Cobleskill is disputing its failing grade.
“I think we’re doing what they asked for,” said Scotia Mayor Tom Gifford on Thursday.
The New York Coalition for Open Government released a report and held a press conference Thursday morning detailing its findings on 20 villages throughout the state. The report states that half the villages looked at in the study did not adhere to Open Meetings Laws in relation to posting agendas and agenda documents. The village of Scotia earned a grade of D.
“Truthfully I think getting a D grade when you don’t comply with the Open Meeting Law is probably being generous,” said Paul Wolf, the president of the coalition, during a press conference.
Cobleskill got an F — putting both villages toward the bottom of the list for following the law.
“That’s not a great performance by village governments in our view,” Wolf said.
Scotia was awarded 65 points out of 100, while Cobleskill received no points.
The report focused on whether the villages publicly posted meeting minutes in 2020, posted the meeting agenda online in February, posted meeting documents online prior to the February meeting and allowed public comments at the meeting.
Villages that posted minutes got 15 points, those that posted agendas got 35 points, posting of meeting documents was also worth 35 points and allowing public comments was 15 points.
“I’m part time, my board is less than part time,” Gifford said, noting that a lot of what information gets on the agenda is scrambled together the day before the meeting and documents are just being gathered before the meeting.
The law requires posting of meeting documents on a municipality’s website “to the extent practicable” prior to the meeting.
“We’re lucky to get them ourselves,” Gifford said.
He said records are made available later on, but that “this is not something people are pounding on our doors asking about.”
Cobleskill Mayor Rebecca Stanton-Terk said the coalition viewed a website the village is trying to phase out. She said the village posts documents on its page on the Schoharie County website.
Wolf said the Open Meetings Laws need to be strengthened and improved. He said throughout the press conference that it isn’t hard to post an agenda or the documents concerning the topics under review.