August 14, 1997
Mr. Richard Mackay
R.D. 1, Box 541
Mt. Upton, NY 13809
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. Mackay:
I have received your letter of July 18 in which you requested an opinion concerning the Open Meetings Law.
According to your letter, on June 30 the residents of the Mt. Upton Central School District for a second time rejected a proposed budget. You indicated that the polls closed at 8 p.m., and that at 8:42 an emergency meeting was called by the Board without any notification to the public. You expressed the belief that "there had to be at least 24 HRS. notice for a special meeting to be called." In this regard, I offer the following comments.
First, the twenty-four hour notice requirement to which you referred appears to be related to §1606 of the Education Law, which provides in part that "A meeting of the Board may be ordered by any member thereof, by giving not less than twenty-four hours notice of the same." As I understand that provision, it involves notice that must be given to members of a board of education. It is my understanding, however, that a meeting may be held within less than twenty-four hours if each member waives the notice requirement and participates at a meeting.
Second, separate from the requirements of the Education Law are those imposed by the Open Meetings Law. Under that statute, notice must be posted and given to the news media prior to every meeting of a public body, such as a board of education. Specifically, §104 of that statute provides that:
"1. Public notice of the time and place of a meeting scheduled at least one week prior thereto shall be given to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more Mr. Richard Mackay August 14, 1997 Page -2-
designated public locations at least seventy-two hours before each meeting.
2. Public notice of the time and place of every other meeting shall be given, to the extent practicable, to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at a reasonable time prior thereto.
3. The public notice provided for by this section shall not be construed to require publication as a legal notice."
Stated differently, if a meeting is scheduled at least a week in advance, notice of the time and place must be given to the news media and to the public by means of posting in one or more designated public locations, not less than seventy-two hours prior to the meeting. If a meeting is scheduled less than a week in advance, again, notice of the time and place must be given to the news media and posted in the same manner as described above, "to the extent practicable", at a reasonable time prior to the meeting. Although the Open Meetings Law does not make reference to "special" or "emergency" meetings, if, for example, there is a need to convene quickly, the notice requirements can generally be met by telephoning the local news media and by posting notice in one or more designated locations.
In short, I believe that the Board was required to provide notice of the meeting in question to the news media and to the public by means of posting.
In an effort to enhance compliance with and understanding of the Open Meetings Law, a copy of this opinion will be forwarded to the Board of Education.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Board of Education