In New York, the public has the right to attend meetings of public bodies, listen to debate and watch the decision-making process. On November 8, 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul signed a new law (S.4704-a/A.1108-a) that mandates public bodies to post meeting minutes on its website within two weeks from an open meeting and one week from an executive session. The law is effective immediately.
The new law is significant because the Open Meetings Law does not currently mandate that meeting minutes be posted online. Under current law, meeting minutes are required to be available within 14 days of the meeting at the office of the local government or school board or within seven days of an executive session where a formal vote is taken if a person requests a copy.
What are “Public Bodies”?
The term “public body” is defined to include 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 including committees and subcommittees of these entities. Consequently, city councils, town boards, village boards of trustees, school boards, commissions, legislative bodies, and committees and subcommittees consisting of members of those groups fall within the coverage of the Law.”
Are There Exemptions?
Notably, the requirement to post meeting minutes will only be applicable if the public body maintains a regularly and routinely updated website and utilizes a high-speed internet connection, as such, it can be interpreted that if a public body does not maintain a website or does not have a high-speed internet connection they would not be required to comply.
In addition, the law also permits a government body to post a video or audio recording of the meeting instead of the meeting minutes.
Next Steps for Employers
Covered bodies should maintain a written record of meeting attendance, motions made, and votes taken and ensure that they are regularly and routinely updating their website to post meeting minutes, or audio or video recordings, or written transcripts.
Covered bodies should also seek guidance from their legal counsel on how to comply.