HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. A newly signed law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo requires local government boards to post meeting agendas online at least 24 hours in advance, something Village Clerk Susan Maggiotto said is already common practice in Hastings.
I dont have a rule, its just a policy, she said. Here, weve always been trying to keep the public as informed as possible.
The law, sponsored by state Assembly member Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale), requires records, resolutions, laws or all matters to be discussed at an open meeting by a public body to be made available for review by the public. If they are not, the law gives citizens the right to sue the government agency.
Town and village boards, school boards and any other public review boards will be subject to the law. The law requires that agendas for public meetings be made available within 24 hours of the scheduled meeting time, and that minutes of the meetings be provided within two weeks after the meeting.
These items, along with any documents to be discussed at the meeting, must be posted online if the agency utilizes an updated website with a high speed Internet connection. Exceptions to the bill can be made if the documents to be posted would be too expensive or time consuming to copy.
Maggiotto said having agendas online early is an important part of the process because it leads to a more thorough conversation with the public.
If they have an opinion on something they can shoot an email off to the board ahead of time or they can come to the meeting, she said. I think it allows them to get their opinions in in a timely fashion rather than wait to see it reported after the fact and then they think maybe its too late.
Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, said having access to all of the documents being discussed will take the mystery out of public meetings.
"It relates to the frustration of people that attend meetings and can't follow what is going on. The board sitting at the front of the room refers to page two, fourth paragraph, and the audience doesn't have a clue what they're talking about," Freeman said. "This legislation will make the Open Meetings Law that much more meaningful."
This has already been on full display in Hastings and Dobbs Ferry, with large documents related to projects such as Rivertowns Square being available for downloading online. Agendas are posted online usually a couple of days before a meeting, but many committees even send them out to residents so Maggiotto encourages people to sign up for the village email lists.
The issue is not getting the info out there, its getting peoples attention to look at it, Maggiotto said.
The bill is an extension of the Open Meetings Law in Article 7 of the New York State Public Officers Law. It was passed by the Assembly and Senate in June and will go into effect on Feb. 2.
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