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Meeting info must be shared

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - Updated: 6:33 AM

By JAIME STUDD

Special to the Express

AMSTERDAM - A new provision of New York state’s 30-year-old Open Meetings Law took effect Feb. 2, the implications of which may forever change the public face of local government.

The intent of the Open Meetings Law is to ensure the public has complete access to any meeting of its governing bodies. The new provision attempts to guarantee the public also has access to documents being discussed at a meeting.

From the website of the NYS Committee on Open Government: “When a record is scheduled to be the subject of discussion by a public body during an open meeting, the legislation requires the public body, with reasonable limitations, to make the record available

to the public prior to the meeting.

“Optimally, the record will be made available online; if that cannot be done, the record can be made available in paper form in response to a request...”

Robert Freeman, executive director of the Committee on Open Government, says the importance of the new provision will quickly become apparent.

“Soon enough, everybody is going to have a website and everybody will become used to posting records online,” he said. “Putting records up on a website will make life easier for everybody and it will become absolutely routine.

“The benefits, I think, will be immense. The public will have a much better grasp of what the government is going to do.

“The public will be much better engaged and able to offer more reasoned points of view than at any time in the past.”

A check Monday of the websites of local governments with meetings scheduled for this week showed the Town of Wells is posting meeting agendas and related documents. Wells Central School District posts its agendas.

The towns of Indian Lake and Inlet had no documents posted related to their meetings of Monday and Tuesday respectively.

     

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