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Mixed grades for town, school compliance with Open Meetings Law amendment

Meeting packets must be placed online

The Johnsburg Town Board meets at Scout Hall in Sodom Tuesday, April 17.

The Johnsburg Town Board meets at Scout Hall in Sodom Tuesday, April 17. Photo by Mike Mender.

— In last week’s editorial, the News Enterprise wrote about the state’s newest Open Meetings Law amendment and how many of the region’s towns, schools and other public bodies have fallen short with compliance.

We didn’t single out anyone, except for a few A-plus boards that go above and beyond — city of Glens Falls, village of Saranac Lake and Johnsburg Central School.

We could have easily added the Adirondack Park Agency to that list; they even webcast their meetings (a statewide requirement that came from the short-lived Spitzer Administration and cost the agency thousands of dollars).

This week — now that the state has given all schools, towns, villages, cities, counties and state agencies a year to comply with the “meeting material” amendment — let’s look at all the public boards in the News Enterprise readership and see how they’re doing.

Background

Last year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved an amendment to the Open Meetings Law (section 103e) requiring public bodies to provide meeting material to the public prior to their meetings, starting Feb. 2, 2012.

The change to the law centers around two types of records:

1) those that are required to be made available pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL);

2) and proposed resolutions, law, rules, regulations, policies or amendments.

When these records are scheduled to be discussed at meetings, they must be “made available, upon request therefore, to the extent practicable as determined by the agency or the department, prior to or at the meeting during which the records will be discussed.”

Public bodies can charge a reasonable fee for copies of the meeting material. However, by posting them online, they will save money.

Speaking of online, there is an important website requirement in this amendment:

“If the agency in which a public body functions maintains a regularly and routinely updated website and utilizes a high speed Internet connection, such records shall be posted on the website to the extent practicable as determined by the agency or the department, prior to the meeting.”

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