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