June 1, 1995
Mr. Michael D. Lesick
Superintendent of Schools
Fonda-Fultonville Central School
P.O. Box 1501
Fonda, NY 12068-1501
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. Lesick:
I have received your letter of May 4 in which you raised issues relating to executive sessions.
Specifically, you raised the following questions:
"When a board votes to go into executive session, is it necessary to specifically name the individuals, other than board members who will be asked to attend the session? Second, once in an executive session, can a board invite others into the session who may have information relative to the topic being discussed? Third, must the board excuse someone from the session prior to allowing an individual to leave an executive session, or can an individual leave on their own volition?"
In this regard, §105(2) of the Open Meetings Law states that: "Attendance at an executive session shall be permitted to any member of the public body and any other persons authorized by the public body." Based on the foregoing, the only persons who have the right to attend an executive session are the members of a public body. However, a public body has the authority to permit others to be present.
I am unaware of any judicial decision indicating that persons other than the members of a public body who are authorized to attend must be identified. In the context of a school board's business, there may be instances in which it would be inappropriate to identify those who attend, as in situations in which parents of students confer in executive session with the Board concerning matters involving their children.
Once in an executive session, pursuant to §105(2), I believe that a board clearly would have the authority to invite non-members to share information relevant to the topic of discussion. Typically, those permitted to join public bodies in executive session are invited for the purpose to which you alluded, i.e., to provide information, knowledge, expertise or advice.
Lastly, I do not believe that a public body could compel an individual to remain at an executive session. As in the case of a meeting during which a person may leave at any time, I know of no provision of law that would authorize a board of education to preclude any person from leaving an executive session.
I hope that I have been of some assistance. Should any further questions arise, please feel free to contact me.
Robert J. Freeman