February 1, 1999
Brian F. Howard, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Liberty Central School District
115 Buckley Street
Liberty, NY 12754
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 Dr. Howard:
I have received your letter of January 20. You have asked whether "a member of the Board of Education or a minority of the Board of Education [can] add comments or notes to the minutes."
In this regard, I offer the following comments.
First, §106 of the Open Meetings Law pertains to minutes of meetings of public bodies and states that:
"1. Minutes shall be taken at all open meetings of a public body which shall consist of a record or summary of all motions, proposals, resolutions and any other matter formally voted upon and the vote thereon.
2. Minutes shall be taken at executive sessions of any action that is taken by formal vote which shall consist of a record or summary of the final determination of such action, and the date and vote thereon; provided, however, that such summary need not include any matter which is not required to be made public by the freedom of information law as added by article six of this chapter.
3. Minutes of meetings of all public bodies shall be available to the public in accordance with the provisions of the freedom of information law within two weeks from the date of such meetings except that minutes taken pursuant to subdivision two hereof shall be available to the public within one week from the date of the executive session."
Based on the foregoing, minutes need not consist of a verbatim account of everything said at a meeting; on the contrary, so long as the minutes include the kinds of information described in §106, I believe that they would be appropriate and meet legal requirements.
I point out that in an opinion issued by the State Comptroller, it was advised that when a member of a board requests that his statement be entered into the minutes, the board must determine, under its rules of procedure, whether to record the statement in writing, which would then be entered as part of the minutes (1980 Op.St.Comp. File #82-181). From my perspective, a board of education, like other public bodies, functions by means of action taken by a majority vote of its total membership. Pertinent is §41 of the General Construction Law, entitled "Quorum and majority", which states that:
"Whenever three of more public officers are given any power or authority, or three or more persons are charged with any public duty to be performed or exercised by them jointly or as a board or similar body, a majority of the whole number of such persons or officers, at a meeting duly held at a time fixed by law, or by any by-law duly adopted by such board of body, or at any duly adjourned meeting of such meeting, or at any meeting duly held upon reasonable notice to all of them, shall constitute a quorum and not less than a majority of the whole number may perform and exercise such power, authority or dy. For the purpose of this provision the words 'whole number' shall be construed to mean the total number which the board, commission, body or other group of persons or officers would have were there no vacancies and were one of the persons or officers disqualified from acting."
Based upon the foregoing, a quorum is a majority of the total membership of a public body, notwithstanding absences or vacancies. Further, in order to carry a motion or take action, there must be an affirmative vote of a majority of the total membership of a public body. Therefore, if, for example, the Board in your district consists of seven members, four affirmative votes would be required to take action.
In the context of your question, I do not believe that a single member or a minority of members could insist or require that their comments or opinions be included in minutes; those additions would be required to be included only following an approval to do so by means of an affirmative vote by a majority of the Board's total membership.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman