May 25, 1999
Hon. Larry G. Mack
Cattaraugus County Legislature
4911 Humphrey Road
Great Valley, NY 14741
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. Mack:
I have received your letter of April 22. In brief, you wrote that the Cattaraugus County Legislature selects which members will hold leadership positions. Those legislators, eight of the twenty-one members of the County Legislature, frequently meet to consider matters involving the duties or jurisdiction of the Legislature. You have questioned the status of the leadership meetings under the Open Meetings Law.
In this regard, it has been held that "[i]n the absence of a quorum, the Open Meetings Law does not apply" [Mobil Oil Corporation v. City of Syracuse Industrial Development Agency, 646 NYS2d 741, 752; 224 AD2d 15; motion for leave to appeal denied, 89 NY2d 811 (1997); see also Tri-Village Publishers, Inc. v. St. Johnsville Board of Education, 110 AD2d 932 (1985), Sciolino v. Ryan, 103 Misc. 2d 1021, 431 NYS2d 664, aff'd 81 AD2d 475, 440 NYS2d 795, MCI Telecommunications Corp. v. Public Service Commission, 659 NYS2d 563, 231 AD2d 284 (1997)]. According to §41 of the General Construction Law, since a quorum of a public body is a majority of its total membership, a quorum of the County Legislature is eleven. That being so, a gathering of eight of the members would not constitute a quorum, and the Open Meetings Law would not apply.
I note that similar questions have arisen with respect to meetings held by the leaders
of the State Legislature, and that the response has been essentially the same, that the
application of the Open Meetings Law is not triggered until a quorum, a majority of the total
membership of a public body, has gathered for the purpose of conducting public business.
I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify your understanding of the matter and that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Gerard J. Fitzpatrick, Chairman