January 13, 1999
Mr. Robert S. Thompson
Massapequa School Board Trustee
208 Fillmore Street
Massapequa Park, NY 11762-1512
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. Thompson:
I have received your letter of December 23, as well as the materials relating to it. In your capacity as a member of the Massapequa School District Board of Education, you referred to issues involving notice of meetings.
In this regard, the Open Meetings Law requires that notice 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
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 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. 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.
Since there appears to be some question concerning whether the reference to notice
being given seventy-two hours prior to a meeting a scheduled at least a week in advance is intended to mean business hours, it is clear my view that the seventy-two hour notice
requirement involves real time, not business hours. In other statutes, where there is reference to a time period and there is an intent to indicate business hours, it is stated directly. For instance, in the Freedom of Information Law, several provisions specify that agencies must act within a certain number of "business days". Absent that specific direction, a time period in my opinion involves real time.
I point out, too, that the notice provisions in the Open Meetings Law merely require that notice include reference to the time and place of meetings. While a public body may include additional information, such as an agenda or a description of topics to be considered there is no obligation to do so imposed by the Open Meetings Law. A public body could, however, on its own initiative, require that notices of meetings include descriptive information or be transmitted to any number of persons or locations prior to meetings.
I hope that I have been of assistance. Should any further questions arise, please feel free to contact me.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Dr. Brucia