July 1, 1998
Mr. Jay M. Gubernick
240 Skyline Drive
Highland Mills, NY 10930
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
Dear Mr. Gubernick:
I have received your letter of June 15 in which you sought an opinion concerning
compliance with the Open Meetings Law by the Woodbury Town Board.
As I understand the matter, the Board changed the scheduled times of two meetings
from 7:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. without having given the news media notice of the change.
Further, in response to your request for a copy of "proof of publication" of notice of those
meetings, the Town Clerk wrote that "there was no legal notice advertising the worksession
meetings held on Monday, April 12, 1998 and Monday, May 4, 1998 began [sic] at 7:00PM instead of the usual 7:30PM."
From my perspective, if notice was given indicating that the meetings would begin at
7:30 p.m., the Board should have waited until that time to begin conducting its business.
Alternatively, if there was a need to convene earlier than the time specified in the original
notice, I believe that the Board should have given additional notices to the news media and
at the location where notice is posted to reflect the actual time when the meetings would
begin. If no notice was given of the actual time that the meetings convened, it would appear
that the beginning of the meetings were held, in effect, in private.
As indicated in previous correspondence, §104 of the Open Meetings Law pertains
to notice of meetings. In brief, 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 an 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. Therefore, 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.
I point out that subdivision (3) of §104 specifies that a legal notice need not be given
prior to a meeting. Stated differently, to comply with the Open Meetings Law, a public body
is not required to pay to place a legal notice in a newspaper or to "advertise" that a meeting
will be held at a certain time and place; a public body must merely "give" notice to the news
media and post the notice. In some circumstances, public bodies have given notice to the
news media, and the newspapers or radio stations in receipt of the notices have chosen not
to print or publicize the meetings to which the notices relate. In those cases, despite the
failure of a notice to be publicized, a public body would have complied with law.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Town Board
Hon. Kathleen Locey, Town Clerk