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The original item was published from 6/30/2021 9:22:40 AM to 8/1/2021 12:00:01 AM.

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News & Town Board Reports (gblist)

Posted on: June 30, 2021

[ARCHIVED] NYS law needs to be changed- to encourage citizen board members to participate by zoom

Current law requires in person meetings. However, citizen board members can participate by zoom if they open up their homes to the public while participating. This is ridiculous


In recent months (since the pandemic) members of Town Boards, City Councils, School Boards and citizen advisory boards have gotten used to meeting by zoom - from the comforts of their home.  The Governor recently issued a directive requiring Boards (including all volunteer boards) to meet in person.  There is a ridiculous requirement in the state law enabling board members who can't participate in person to continue to participate via zoom ONLY IF THEY OPEN UP THEIR HOME TO THE PUBLIC WHILE THEY ARE PARTICIPATING IN THE ZOOM CALL.  The current law discourages participation. It's a step backwards. 


The NYS law should be amended to allow Board members to continue to participate in meetings via zoom without opening up their homes to the public to observe their vote.  I am reaching out to the Governor and State Legislators asking that the law be changed.

    For unpaid volunteers of a public body who are not personally comfortable in meeting in a small Town Hall conference room at this point in time with the emergence of a new highly contagious variant of the Covid virus,
- If there is a member who has just had surgery and, though with discomfort is heroically participating in Zoom meetings, he/ she now has to further disrupt her recovery and open up his/her house to the public in order to continue participating in Zoom meetings.
- If there is a member who has lost a family member to Covid and out of a sense of duty is participating in Zoom meetings notwithstanding the family and personal stresses, he/sheshe has to open her house to the public in order to continue participating in Zooms.
- If there are members who have opened their house only to close family members due to the risk of Covid virus contagiousness, they now have to open their houses to unknown strangers in order to continue participating in Zooms. In these times, even without Covid, normal people don’t open their houses to strangers.         Who knows what is going to be the Covid situation in the fall when millions of Americans return from vacations in far-away lands.

The State Legislature and Governor should recognize the advantages of technology. Zoom meetings have increased citizen involvement and participation. Dedicated volunteers and Board members who can't make meetings due to illnesses, business or personal issues should be encouraged to continue to participate.PAUL FEINER
Greenburgh Town Supervisor

 
The Committee on Open Government has revised its view and now believes that videoconferencing of Town meetings is permissible. However, if videoconferencing is used, the public notice for the meeting is required to inform the public that videoconferencing will be used, identify the locations for the meeting, and state that the public has the right to attend the meeting at any of the locations at which a member of the public body participates.




From: Timothy Lewis
Sent: Monday, June 28, 2021 5:22 PM
To: Town Board
Cc: Judith A. Beville; Joan M. Dudek
Subject: Open Meetings in the Absence of NYS Emergency Orders 

Pursuant to the attached, the Committee on Open Government has revised its view and now believes that videoconferencing of Town meetings is permissible. However, if videoconferencing is used, the public notice for the meeting is required to inform the public that videoconferencing will be used, identify the locations for the meeting, and state that the public has the right to attend the meeting at any of the locations at which a member of the public body participates.

 

Tim

 

 

From: Oneill, Kristin (DOS) <Kristin.ONeill@dos.ny.gov>
Sent: Monday, June 28, 2021 12:20 PM
To: Timothy Lewis <TLewis@greenburghny.com>
Subject: RE: Open Meetings in the Absence of NYS Emergency Orders

 

EXTERNAL: Do not click links or open attachments if you do not recognize the sender.

Hi Tim – see attached PowerPoint regarding the use of videoconferencing.

 

1. There is not obligation under the OML to have a quorum physically present in one location.  Members of a public body may participate and vote either physically gathered in the presence of each other or through the use of videoconferencing.  However, it is important to note that Town Law Section 62(2) states, in part “All meetings of the town board shall be  held  within  the  town  at  such  place  as the town board shall determine by resolution, except that  where  provision  is  made  by  law  for  joint meetings  of  two or more town boards such joint meetings may be held in any of the towns to be represented thereat.”  We have interpreted this to mean that there must be a primary meeting location within Town borders that complies with 103(b) and 103(d).

2.  Whether a Board is voting or not voting during a meeting will have no bearing on its obligations under the OML.

 

3.  The Law does not identify any “circumstances under which Board members are not required to disclose their videoconference locations and make those locations available to the public.”  If a particular scenario arises for which you would like an opinion, please let us know.

 

Kristin

 

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