June 8, 1993
Ms. Christel Steenrod
950 N. Ketchumville Road
Berkshire, NY 13736
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 Ms. Steenrod:
I have received your letter of May 22 in which you requested an advisory opinion concerning access to minutes of meetings of the Board of Education of the Newark Valley Central School District. It appears that the District believes that minutes need not be disclosed until they are approved or made "official".
In this regard, §106 of the Open Meetings Law pertains to minutes of meetings and provides that:
"1. 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.
2. Minutes shall be taken at executive sessions of any action that is taken by formal vote which shall consist of a record or summary of the final determination of such action, and the date and vote thereon; provided, however, that such summary need not include any matter which is not required to be made public by the freedom of information law as added by article six of this chapter.
3. Minutes of meetings of all public bodies shall be available to the public in accordance with the provisions of the freedom of information law within two weeks from the date of such meetings except that minutes taken pursuant to subdivision two hereof shall be available to the public within one week from the date of the executive session."
In view of the foregoing, it is clear in my opinion that minutes of open meetings must be prepared and made available within two weeks of the meetings to which they pertain.
Moreover, there is nothing in the Open Meetings Law or any other statute of which I am aware that requires that minutes be approved. Nevertheless, as a matter of practice or policy, many public bodies approve minutes of their meetings. In the event that minutes have not been approved, to comply with the Open Meetings Law, it has consistently been advised that minutes be prepared and made available within two weeks, and that if the minutes have not been approved, they may be marked "unapproved", "draft" or "non-final", for example. By so doing within the requisite time limitations, the public can generally know what transpired at a meeting; concurrently, the public is effectively notified that the minutes are subject to change. If minutes have been prepared within less than two weeks, I believe that those unapproved minutes would be available as soon as they exist, and that they may be marked in the manner described above. Again, I believe that the language of §106(3) is clear, for it states that minutes shall be available "within two weeks from the date of such meetings."
As you requested, copies of this opinion will be forwarded to the District's records access officer and its attorney.
I hope that I have been of some assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Thomas Wieland, Records Access Officer
John B. Hogan, Esq.