May 12, 1999
Ms. Christine McDonald
Crandall Public Library
251 Glen Street
Glens Falls, NY 12801
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 Ms. McDonald:
I have received your letter of April 23 in which you questioned the application of the Open
Meetings Law to a meeting of a committee of the Southern Adirondack Library System (SALS). You indicated that you reviewed §260-a of the Education Law, that you find it confusing, and that you interpret it to mean that "if your city doesn't have a million people, you don't have to follow the Open Meetings Law for committee meetings."
In this regard, I offer the following comments.
First, the Open Meetings Law is applicable to meetings of public bodies, and §102(2) 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 for the state or for an agency or department thereof, or for a public corporation as defined in section sixty-six of the general construction law, or committee or subcommittee or other similar body of such public body."
Based on the foregoing, as a general matter, the Open Meetings Law pertains to governmental bodies, such as a board of education, a city council, a county legislature, and the like. That statute does not typically apply to meetings of the boards of not-for-profit corporations or other entities that are not governmental in nature. If the SALS is analogous to other library systems, it is a not-for-profit corporation, and although it receives funding from government, it is not itself a governmental entity.
Second, however, the Open Meetings Law, which is codified as Article 7 of the Public
Officers Law, is applicable to boards of trustees of public libraries pursuant to §260-a of the Education Law, which states that:
"Every meeting, including a special district meeting, of a board of
trustees of a public library system, cooperative library system, public
library or free association library, including every committee meeting
and subcommittee meeting of any such board of trustees in cities
having a population of one million or more, shall be open to the general public. Such meetings shall be held in conformity with and in pursuance to the provisions of article seven of the public officers law. Provided, however, and notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision one of section ninety-nine of the public officers law, public notice of the time and place of a meeting scheduled at least two weeks prior thereto shall be given to the public and news media at least one week prior to such meeting."
Again, since Article 7 of the Public Officers Law is the Open Meetings Law, meetings of boards of trustees of various libraries, including public libraries that are not-for-profit corporations, must be conducted in accordance with that statute.
When a committee consists solely of members of a public body, such as a board of education or the board of a municipal library, I believe that the Open Meetings Law is applicable. Based on the definition of "public body", any entity consisting of two or more members of a public body, such as a committee or subcommittee consisting of members of a public body, would fall within the requirements of the Open Meetings Law [see Syracuse United Neighbors v. City of Syracuse, 80 AD2d 984 (1981)].
In view of the foregoing, it is clear that a library board of trustees including the SALS Board
is required to comply with the Open Meetings Law. In the context of your inquiry, although the Board of the SALS is required to comply with the Open Meetings Law, that is so not because it is a public body, but rather due to the specific direction imposed by §260-a of the Education Law. That being so, and in view of the language of §260-a of the Education Law, a committee of a library board of trustees would be required to comply with the Open Meetings Law only if it is a committee of a public body as suggested earlier, or if it is a committee of a library board of trustees in New York City, the only city in the state with a population above one million.
In sum, while the meetings of the Board of the SALS are clearly subject to the Open Meetings Law, if the SALS is not a public body because it is not a governmental entity, meetings of its committees would not, in my opinion, be subject to the requirements of that statute.
This is not to suggest that a committee could not conduct open meetings, but rather that it
would not be required to do so.
I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify the application of the Open Meetings Law and that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Southern Adirondack Library System