According to the Open Meetings Law, when two or more board members, in this case trustees, appointed to a sub-committee of the governing board gather to discuss business, the meeting is open to the public. As such it should be advertised to the public and videotaping is allowed.
In an Opinion Letter dated December 7, 2006, Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the Committee on Open Government opined:
...a governmental entity, i.e., a municipal or school district library, I believe that committees and subcommittees consisting of two or more members of the Board would be required to comply with Open Meetings Law.However, some members of the New Hartford Public Library Board objected to our videotaping because they do not want to share information with the public regarding discussion of a possible re-charter of the library as a school library whereby the funds needed to run the library would be a separate line item on the New Hartford Central School tax bill rather than included in the town budget. According to one board member, they would have a better chance of the vote passing if there were less information available to the public beforehand. Another board member said he didn't care about the Freedom of Information Law and the Open Meetings Law...he had no intention of complying with either.
We say hogwash...taxpayers have a right to know what they are being asked to fund...the pros and the cons. The Open Meetings Law is there for a purpose; it is to prevent public business from being done behind taxpayers backs.
After some of the board trustees and committee members walked out, it was decided to adjourn the meeting because it was being videotaped rather than to continue the business that they came together to do.
It is truly sad that some members of the library board feel that 'outsiders' are not welcome and should have no say in these discussions even though the point of these meetings is to start making plans to ask voters/taxpayers in the New Hartford School District to agree to fund a $500,000 library budget as a separate line item on their school tax bill.
It is unfortunate, but it appears that the "movers and shakers" behind the New Hartford Public Library didn't learn their lesson from the 1994 bond vote for the building that was rejected because voters/taxpayers felt 'left out in the cold' with not enough information given to the public beforehand.
What is it that they say...history has a tendency to repeat itself? Unless the library trustees get their act together and start to recognize the need for public involvement, history may very well repeat itself. Then who will be 'left out in the cold'?
Here is tonight's shameful meeting: