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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New Hartford School Superintendent Robert Nole...

has accepted an invitation to attend a meeting of the New Hartford Library Board of Trustees according to Board President Linda Romano at today's Library Board of Trustees meeting.

Town Supervisor Patrick Tyksinski has also been invited to attend the meeting which is being held in the library on Monday November 7, 2011 at noon in order to discuss the feasibility of changing the library charter so that operating expenses are paid directly by taxpayers in New Hartford rather than as a line item in the town budget.

According to New Hartford Library Board President Linda Romano, the November 7th meeting will not be open to the public because it is a workshop and no action will be taken by the board.

As an attorney, Ms. Romano knows better...the Open Meetings Law says that the if a majority of the trustees are summoned to meet to discuss public [in this instance library] business regardless of whether or not action will be taken is a meeting that is open to the public.

Library Trustee Edmund J. Wiatr, Jr. spoke up at the meeting and stated for the record that closing this meeting to the public most definitely would be against the Open Meetings Law; however, the other library trustees cited many reasons why the meeting needs to be closed...none of which are legitimate reasons under the Open Meetings Law.

One trustee stated that it should be closed because they don't want the public to be confused and it's 'for the good of the library' that it be closed. We disagree. The good of the library will be better served if they follow the Open Meetings Law.

Library Trustee Mary DuRoss told the library board that she had contacted Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the Committee on Open Government and he said the meeting did not have to be open to the public. She even agreed to ask him to send a signed letter confirming their conversation.

No need to bother Mr. Freeman Mary because he already has two opinions online...neither one agrees with the conversation you state you had with him. One is dated March 6, 2002 and the other is dated August 18, 2008. Both opinions concur that:
The decision rendered by the Court of Appeals was precipitated by contentions made by public bodies that so-called "work sessions" and similar gatherings held for the purpose of discussion, but without an intent to take action, fell outside the scope of the Open Meetings Law. In discussing the issue, the Appellate Division, whose determination was unanimously affirmed by the Court of Appeals, stated that:

"We believe that the Legislature intended to include more than the mere formal act of voting or the formal execution of an official document. Every step of the decision-making process, including the decision itself, is a necessary preliminary to formal action. Formal acts have always been matters of public record and the public has always been made aware of how its officials have voted on an issue. There would be no need for this law if this was all the Legislature intended. Obviously, every thought, as well as every affirmative act of a public official as it relates to and is within the scope of one's official duties is a matter of public concern. It is the entire decision-making process that the Legislature intended to affect by the enactment of this statute" (60 AD 2d 409, 415).

The court also dealt with the characterization of meetings as "informal," stating that:

"The word 'formal' is defined merely as 'following or according with established form, custom, or rule' (Webster's Third New Int. Dictionary). We believe that it was inserted to safeguard the rights of members of a public body to engage in ordinary social transactions, but not to permit the use of this safeguard as a vehicle by which it precludes the application of the law to gatherings which have as their true purpose the discussion of the business of a public body" (id.).

Based upon the direction given by the courts, if a majority of a public body gathers to discuss public business, any such gathering, in our opinion, would ordinarily constitute a "meeting" subject to the Open Meetings Law. Since an “informal” meeting or a “work session” held by a majority of a public body is a “meeting”, it would have the same responsibilities in relation to notice and the taking of minutes as in the case of a formal meeting...
Mr. Freeman's opinions leave no doubt that this meeting is to be open to the public. So just what is it that some of these library trustees are trying to hide anyway?

Why not let the public participate in the planning so they can get all the facts before they have to vote on funding for the library at the next school budget vote in May 2012?

We have to wonder...does New Hartford School Superintendent Robert Nole and Town Supervisor Patrick Tyksinski know that this meeting will be closed to the public in violation of the Open Meetings Law? Will they take part in a meeting that is in violation of the Open Meetings Law? Our camera will be rolling...

How many lame excuses for not obeying the Open Meetings Law can you count in the video below?

By the way, they confirmed at today's meeting that there have been several meetings all year long regarding the re-chartering...none of them have been advertised to the public. These people just don't seem to get it...

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