February 2, 1995
Mr. Arnold J. Leckie
Town of Mendon
16 West Main Street
Honeoye Falls, NY 14472
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.
Dear Mr. Leckie:
I have received your letter of December 30 in which you asked whether you are "entitled to legally attend a Democratic caucus or not..."
By way of background, you wrote as follows:
"First, I was endorsed as Democratic candidate for Town Board last year. However, as a registered Republican, I entered the Republican Primary election and won that also. Thereby being listed as a candidate for both parties in the General election.
"Having been elected, I have aligned myself generally with the Democratic members on the Board. Does this, then provide reason for me to attend their caucuses?"
In this regard, I offer the following comments.
First, from my perspective, as a registered republican, you could not be considered a democrat, despite your endorsement by the democratic party or the fact that you may vote more often with democrats.
Second, §108(2)(a) of the Open Meetings Law states that exempted from its provisions are: "deliberations of political committees, conferences and caucuses." Additionally, §108(2)(b) states that:
"for purposes of this section, the deliberations of political committees, conferences and caucuses means a private meeting of members of the senate or assembly of the state of New York, or the legislative body of a county, city, town or village, who are members or adherents of the same political party, without regard to (i) the subject matter under discussion, including discussions of public business, (ii) the majority or minority status of such political committees, conferences and caucuses or (iii) whether such political committees, conferences and caucuses invite staff or guests to participate in their deliberations..."
Based on the foregoing, in general, either the majority or minority party members of a legislative body may conduct closed political caucuses outside of the coverage of the Open Meetings Law. Further, since a political caucus is beyond the coverage of that statute, I do not believe that there is a "right" to attend such a caucus; rather, peoples' presence is essentially by invitation.
Lastly, if a majority of Town Board members meet to discuss public business, and the members include at least one member from each party, the gathering in my opinion could not be characterized as a political caucus exempt from the Open Meetings Law; on the contrary, due to the presence of members of more than one political party, I believe that it would constitute a "meeting" subject to the requirements of that statute.
I hope that I have been of some assistance.
Robert J. Freeman