April 27, 1998
Councilman Angelo P. Ferrara
Town of North Hempstead
P.O. Box 3000
Manhasset, NY 11030
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 Councilman Ferrara:
I have reviewed your letter of April 8. You wrote that you learned that the Town of North Hempstead "regularly conducts Department Head meetings", and that you "have been advised that the town supervisor is the only elected official that is legally entitled to attend these meetings."
You have asked "if this is correct or if a Town Council person has the authority to attend and partake in these Department Head Meetings."
In this regard, unless the Town Board has enacted local law or established a rule or policy conferring a right upon council persons to attend the meetings in question, I do not believe that you would have the right to do so. Further, the gatherings in question would not fall within the coverage of the Open Meetings Law.
The Open Meetings Law pertains to meetings of public bodies, and§102(2) of that statute defines the phrase "public body" to mean:
"any entity, for which a quorum is required in order to conduct public business and which
consists of two or more members, performing a governmental function of the state or for an
agency or department thereof, or for a public corporation as defined in §66 of the general
construction law, or committee or subcommittee or other similar body of such public body."
Based on the foregoing, a town board or other legislative or governing body, or a body created by law, such as a planning board or a zoning board of appeals, would constitute a public body required to comply with the Open Meetings Law. The staff or department heads of an agency would not constitute a public body and the Open Meetings Law would not be pertinent or applicable.
In my view, the only basis for a right to attend the meetings in question, again, would involve a right conferred by a local enactment.
I hope that the foregoing serves to provide clarification and that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Hon. May W. Newburger, Supervisor