October 31, 1995
Hon. Richard E. Slagle
Village of Celoron
21 Boulevard Avenue
Celoron, NY 14720
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 Mayor Slagle:
I have received your letter of October 9 and appreciate your interest in compliance with the Open Meetings Law.
You wrote that the Village of Celoron tape records the meetings of its Board of Trustees, Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals in order to ensure that minutes of meetings are accurate. At a recent meeting of the Planning Board, one of the members raised a question concerning a section of the Village Code, and a member of the Board of Trustees in attendance stated that she had information on the subject but that she did not want to discuss it "with the recording on." At that point, a member of the Planning Board asked that the recorder be turned off while the Trustee shared the information with the Board. You expressed the view that this action "prevented an accurate record of the meeting from occurring", and you have sought my views on the matter.
In this regard, there is nothing in the Open Meetings Law or andy other statute of which I am aware that requires public bodies to tape record their meetings. Consequently, there is likely no law that would preclude a public body from choosing to record some portions of a meeting but not others. It appears that the Village of Celoron records the meetings of its public bodies as a matter of practice or perhaps tradition. To avoid the kind of situation that you described and to ensure that open meetings are recorded in their entirety, it is suggested that the Board of Trustees could, by resolution or other enactment, so require. By means of the adoption or enactment of such a provision, a public body within the Village would be precluded from stopping a recording due to a desire that certain comments or discussions not be preserved.
It is also noted that, in the situation that you described, any member of the public in attendance using a recording device could have continued to record the meeting, despite the request by the Trustee. While the Planning Board would have had discretion to use or turn off its tape recorder, I do not believe that it would have had the authority to prohibit a member of the public from continuing to use his or her tape recorder.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman