NEW YORK COALITION FOR OPEN GOVERNMENT: 70% of Local Governments Reviewed Not Posting Timely Meeting Minutes, 35% with at Least One Violation of Open Meetings Law

New York Coalition for Open Government

Releasing Report Titled:

“Local Governments Struggle with Timely Posting of Meeting Minutes”

  • 70% of Local Governments Reviewed are not Timely Posting Minutes
  • 35% of Local Governments Reviewed had at Least One Violation of the Open Meetings Law

The New York Coalition for Open Government reviewed the websites of twenty towns and cities across the state regarding their meetings conducted during the month of June.

This report addresses local governments with a population between 10,000 and 32,000, from across the state as follows:

Town of Lockport, Town of Orchard Park  Jamestown, Olean
Geneva, Batavia
Elmira, City of Ithaca, 
City of Cortland, Auburn
City of Plattsburgh, Ogdensburg
City of Amsterdam, Rome
Saratoga Springs, Rotterdam
– –City of Poughkeepsie, City of Kingston Glen Cove, Riverhead  

Focus of Report

This report focuses on compliance with the Open Meetings Law and whether meeting minutes are posted in a timely fashion. The items reviewed were:

  • Are all meeting documents posted online prior to the meeting
  • Are meetings being live streamed on the local government’s website
  • Are meeting videos/audio posted on the website after the meeting
  • While not required by the Open Meetings Law are local governments posting meeting minutes online in a timely fashion.

In our opinion meeting minutes are timely if the minutes of the last meeting are posted before the next meeting is held. This can be done, by posting draft minutes or at the very least including the minutes from the prior meeting in the next meeting agenda packet. 

Grading Criteria

If a local government did all four of the items stated above they received a grade of an A. Three out of the four items rated as a B; two out of four as a C; one out of four a D and zero out of four an F. 

          A                4/4 items performed

          B                 3/4 items performed

          C                 2/4 items performed

          D                1/4 items performed

          F                 0/4 items performed

Grades

A (4/4)        (3 out of 20 local governments, 15%)

Geneva (population 12,700)

City of Plattsburgh (19,900)

Rotterdam (29,700)

B (3/4)        (11 out of 20 local governments, 55%)

Auburn (26,500)

Batavia (14,400)

Glen Cove (27,000)

Jamestown (29,300)

City of Ithaca (31,000)

City of Kingston (22,900)

Ogdensburg (10,500)

Town of Orchard Park (29,500)

City of Poughkeepsie (30,400)

Riverhead (33,500)

Saratoga Springs (28,000)

C (2/4)        (4 out of 20 local governments, 20%)

City of Amsterdam (17,800)

City of Cortland  (19,200)

Elmira (29,200)

Rome (32,200)

D (1/4)        (1 out of 20 local governments, 5%)

Olean (13,500)

F (0/4)         (1 out of 20 local governments 5%)

Town of Lockport (20,000)

Are All Meeting Documents Posted Online Before a Meeting Occurs (80%)

Sixteen out of twenty-one local governments posted their full meeting documents online for the public to see before their meeting. The public should be able to view the complete meeting package (the same packet that legislators have). 

The four local governments that did not post all their meeting documents were Amsterdam, Jamestown, Lockport and Olean. 

Are Meetings Being Live Streamed (85%)

Seventeen out of twenty local governments were in compliance with the Open Meetings Law requirement to live stream their meetings. The local governments not live streaming their meetings were Elmira, Lockport and Olean.

Are Meeting Videos/Audio Posted Online (75%)

Fifteen out of twenty local governments posted a copy of their meeting audio/video online after the meeting for the public to see. The five local governments that did not post their meeting audio/videos were Cortland, Elmira, Lockport, Olean and Rome.

Are Meeting Minutes Being Posted Timely (30%)

Six out of twenty local governments posted their meeting minutes timely. Two local governments did not post meeting minutes at all: Amsterdam and Rome.

Twelve local governments were over two weeks to seven months behind in posting meeting minutes: Auburn, Batavia, Cortland, Glencove, Ithaca, Kingston, Lockport, Ogdensburg, Orchard Park, Poughkeepsie, Riverhead and Saratoga Springs. 

Conclusion

Thirty-five percent of the twenty local governments reviewed had at least one violation of the Open Meetings Law. 

The New York State Open Meetings Law should be amended to mandate that meeting minutes must be posted online within two weeks of a meeting occurring. 

Vermont requires local governments to post meeting minutes online within five days of a meeting. Virginia requires that minutes be posted online within ten working days.


Without a legal mandate in place, seventy percent of local governments studied are not making information regarding their actions available in a timely manner. It does not make sense in today’s electronic age that New York requires live streaming meetings, posting recordings of meetings but does not mandate the posting of meeting minutes. Even without a legal mandate in place, local governments should strive to have draft minutes posted before their next meeting occurs.

For more about the New York Coalition for Open Government, Click Below: http://www.nyopengov.org/