February 25, 1993
Mr. Kevin A. Seaman
Pelletreau & Pelletreau
20 Church Street
Patchogue, N.Y. 11772
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence.
Dear Mr. Seaman:
I have received your letter of February 9 in which you asked whether I agree with contentions that you made in a letter addressed to Ms. Dorothy Auer, Clerk of the Middle Country Central School District.
In that letter, you wrote that Ms. Auer had advised you that the Board of Education "adopts personnel resolutions to the effect that a certain cited Personnel Schedule is approved; said Personnel Schedule setting forth probationary appoints [sic], term appointments, changes of status, resignations, etc." She further advised that the personnel schedules are not attached to minutes. It is your view that the District's practice is "out of the ordinary", and you contend that "it would serve the interests of all concerned to have personnel actions placed within the Minutes themselves as opposed to referencing a separate document which one would have to consult to review a history (recent or long-term) of personnel items."
In this regard, as you are aware, §106 of the Open Meetings Law pertains to minutes and prescribes what might be characterized as minimum requirements concerning their contents. Subdivision (1) of §106 relates to minutes of open meetings and states that:
"minutes shall be taken at all open meetings of a public body which shall consist of a record or summary of all motions, proposals, resolutions and any other matter formally voted upon and the vote thereon."
In my view, above all, minutes are intended to be the official, permanent record of actions taken by public bodies. Their accuracy and completeness are necessary to enable the public to know of public bodies' activities. Equally important, minutes constitute a history of activities upon which public bodies may rely historically, in both the long and short terms, and public bodies often have a need to know of actions they have taken.
I would agree with your contention that contents of the personnel schedules to which you referred should be included in minutes, or attached to them in order that the public, as well as the governmental entity involved, can have the ability to ascertain what specific actions have been taken. However, there may be instances in which a reference to materials that are the subject of an action taken may be reasonable and sufficient. For instance, a board of education might vote to engage in or approve contracts, including collective bargaining agreements, which may be lengthy. In those cases, I do not be believe that the Open Meetings Law would require that the entirety of such an agreement be included as part of the minutes, or perhaps even as an attachment to minutes. In that kind of circumstance, so long as minutes provide sufficient detail to enable the public and agency officials to locate the records that are the subject of the action taken, I believe that a public body would be an substantial compliance with the Open Meetings Law.
I hope that I have been of some assistance. Should any further questions arise, please feel free to contact me.
Robert J. Freeman
RJF:pb cc: Dorothy Auer, District Clerk