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OPEN MEETINGS LAW

The Ellicott Town Board may have violated the New York State Open Meetings Law during their meeting on March 13, 2023, when they decided to eliminate one elected Town Justice position without proper public notice or discussion.

 

The board went into an executive session under the guise of discussing litigation, as permitted by §105.1(d) of the Open Meetings Law, but subsequently adopted Resolution #1-2023 to abolish the Town Justice position after emerging from the private session. This decision was not included in the meeting agenda, nor was it discussed in a public forum or with input from taxpayers and the affected judges.

 

By not transparently addressing the subject matter in an open meeting and failing to involve the public in the decision-making process the board's actions appear to be in violation of the Open Meetings Law.  Although it is unclear whether the board intentionally violated the Open Meetings Law, their actions warrant further examination to ensure transparency and proper public involvement in the decision-making process.
 

Some members who were present have acknowledged that they discussed the elimination of the Justice Position during the Executive Session, which was closed to the public. This discussion appears to be contrary to the permissible provisions outlined in Section §105, "Conduct of executive sessions," of the New York State Open Meetings Law.


 

NYS OPEN MEETING LAW

https://opengovernment.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2022/09/oml-text-09152022.pdf

§100. Legislative declaration.

It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that the public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens of this state be fully aware of and able to observe the performance of public officials and attend and listen to the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy. The people must be able to remain informed if they are to retain control over those who are their public servants. It is the only climate under which the governmental process to operate for the benefit of those who created it.
 
§105. Conduct of executive sessions.

1. Upon a majority vote of its total membership, taken in an open meeting pursuant to a motion identifying the general area or areas of the subject or subjects to be considered, a public body may conduct an executive session for the below enumerated purposes only, provided, however, that no action by formal vote shall be taken to appropriate public moneys:
a. matters which will imperil the public safety if disclosed;
 
b. any matter which may disclose the identity of a law enforcement agent or informer;
 
c. information relating to current or future investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense which would imperil effective law enforcement if disclosed;
 
d. discussions regarding proposed, pending or current litigation;
 
e. collective negotiations pursuant to article fourteen of the civil service law;
 
f. the medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation;
 
g. the preparation, grading or administration of examinations; and
 
h. the proposed acquisition, sale or lease of real property or the proposed acquisition of securities, or sale or exchange of securities held by such public body, but only when publicity would substantially affect the value thereof.
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