Open Meetings Law Amendments--What You Need To Know
Earlier this week, Governor Hochul signed legislation amending the Open Meetings Law for the third time in as many months. The changes alter the requirements applicable to meeting minutes, prior posting of agendas and other documents, and videoconferencing.
Minutes to be Posted Online. The most recent change requires agencies that maintain a regularly and routinely updated website and use a high-speed internet connection to post meeting minutes on their website within two weeks of the date of the meeting (or within one week for minutes from an executive session).
The Open Meetings Law provides that minutes simply must consist of a record or summary of all motions, proposals, resolutions and any other matter formally voted upon and the vote thereon. However, the amendment now provides that "unabridged video recordings or unabridged audio recordings or unabridged written transcripts may be deemed to be meeting minutes." [L.2021, ch. 587 § 1]. According to the sponsor's memorandum, "Unabridged video recordings, unabridged audio recordings, or unabridged written transcripts may be posted in lieu of minutes."
Prior to the amendment, minutes were only required to be made available upon request.
Prior Disclosure of Agendas, Proposed Resolutions and Other Documents. As we noted in a prior post, in 2012, the Open Meetings Law was amended to require public bodies to make agendas as well as any other document scheduled to be discussed at a public meeting, available before or during the meeting when they will be discussed. At that time, advance online posting of such documents was also required " to the extent practicable as determined by the agency or department."
The prior amendment also required advance online posting of the documents if the agency maintains a regularly and routinely updated website. However, as with the hard copies noted above, the online documents are only required to be posted "to the extent practicable as determined by the agency or department."
Last month, the Governor signed an amendment to the Open Meetings Law adding a minimum time requirement for the prior disclosures and posting. Now, documents must be provided and/or posted at least twenty-four hours prior to the meeting during which the records will be discussed.
Videoconferencing. The Open Meetings Law has technically always permitted videoconferencing. However, the public must be permitted to participate at any location where a member is participating. Notice of the meeting must also state the locations, including private residence or other location where the member will be participating. This makes videoconferencing practically useless.
On September 2, 2021, the Governor signed temporary legislation [L.2021, ch. 417], suspending certain provisions of the Open Meetings Law in order to permit local public bodies to limit in-person access to meetings. The temporary legislation also permits meetings to be held remotely by conference call or similar service, provided the public has the ability to view or listen to such proceeding and that such meetings are recorded and later transcribed. The language in the law is similar to the former Executive Order 202.1, originally issued in March 2020.
This temporary legislation expires and will be deemed repealed on January 15, 2022.
If you have any questions about these amendments or other Open Meetings Law issues, please feel free to contact Peter Weishaar at firstname.lastname@example.org or (585) 512-3542. His municipal practice includes the ongoing representation of fire districts, planning and zoning boards, and other local governments, as well as the representation of municipalities as special counsel in litigation matters including Article 78 Proceedings and defense of tax assessment matters.
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