OML-AO-3341 July 24, 2001
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.
As you are aware, I have received your correspondence concerning the status of "workforce investment boards" under the Open Meetings Law. Those entities are creations of federal law, but you wrote that their membership is appointed by local government officials at the local level.
Specifically, §117(e) of the Workforce Investment Act, also known as "Sunshine Provision", states that:
"The local board shall make available to the public, on a regular basis through open meetings, information regarding the activities of the local board, including information regarding the local plan prior to submission of the plan, and regarding membership, the designation of one-stop operators, the award of grants or contracts to eligible providers of youth activities, and on request, minutes of formal meetings of the local board."
Based upon the foregoing, there is clearly an expressed intent that local boards conduct "open meetings" and provide information to the public.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, based on a decision rendered by the State's highest court, the Court of Appeals, it appears that an entity created pursuant to federal law would not be subject to the New York Open Meetings Law. The decision dealt with a "laboratory animal use committee" (LAUC) that was required to be established pursuant to federal law and was instituted at the State University at Stony Brook, and it was determined that the entity in question fell beyond the scope of the Open Meetings Law.
That statute pertains to meetings of public bodies, and §102(2) defines the phrase "public body" to mean:
"...any entity for which a quorum is required in order to conduct public business and which consists of two or more members, performing a governmental function for the state or for an agency or department thereof, or for a public corporation as defined in section sixty-six of the general construction law, or committee or subcommittee or other similar body of such public body." Following its reference to the definition, the Court found that:
"It is thus evident that the Open Meetings Law excludes Federal bodies from its ambit.
"The LAUC's constituency, powers and functions derive solely from Federal law and regulations. Thus, even if it could be characterized as a governmental entity, it is at most a Federal body that is not covered under the Open Meetings Law" [ASPCA v. Board of Trustees of the State University of New York, 79 NY 2d 927, 929 (1992)].
Due to the similarity relative to the creation and basis for existence between the LAUC and a local workforce investment board, again, it appears that such a board would not constitute a "public body" required to comply with the Open Meetings Law.
The foregoing is not intended to suggest that a workforce investment board should not hold open meetings; on the contrary, the guidance offered in federal law encourages openness and disclosure. In a somewhat similar situation involving community action agencies, which are also creations of federal law and are required by federal law to provide "reasonable access to information, including but not limited to public hearings," it has been suggested that due to the vagueness of the federal law requiring openness, the Open Meetings Law might be used as a guide in considering the extent to which meetings should be open or, conversely, conducted in private.
The full text of the Open Meetings Law is available on our website under the heading of "Publications."
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman Executive Director