The New York Open Meetings Law provides that every meeting of a “public body” shall be open to the general public (except in very limited instances, such as an executive session of such a public body). A public body includes entities consisting of two or more people who conduct public business and perform a governmental function for New York State, for an agency of the state, or for public corporations, such as cities, counties, towns, villages, and school districts.
One of the requirements of the Open Meetings Law is the mandate that such public bodies make available any documents scheduled to be discussed available prior to any meetings. Currently, the law provides that such documents be available prior to a meeting “to the extent practicable as determined by the agency or the department.” This discretionary language, however, has been applied in a variety of disparate ways limiting disclosure by various public bodies.
This disclosure requirement, however, will change on November 18, 2021 as a new state law takes effect requiring that open meeting documents be made available “to the extent practicable at least twenty-four hours” prior to the meeting. Additionally, if the public body maintains a “regularly and routinely updated website and utilizes a high speed internet connection”, such documents and records must be posted on the website to the extent practicable at least twenty-four hours prior to the meeting.
These new requirements will expand the transparency of public bodies, including city councils, town boards, village boards of trustees, school boards, commissions, and other applicable legislative bodies.
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