The Open Meetings Law
The Open Meetings or “Sunshine” law which went into effect in New York in 1977, gives the public the right to attend meetings of public bodies, listen to the debates and watch the decision making process in action. Although it is not required to do so, a public body may permit members of the public to speak at open meetings.
Public Sessions of the Board Meeting
The Board of Trustees will allocate ten (10) minutes (the “public” session) before the official beginning of each meeting (the “business” session) for public comments on any subject relevant to the work of the board. The public session is not be used as a vehicle for immediate resolution of problems. It is a device to bring important issues to the board’s attention and, in some cases, to be taken up by the administration or at subsequent meetings.
Individuals who wish to speak at the public session may do so under the following conditions:
- they must register their desire to speak and the subject matter, in writing, with the Secretary of the College by the end of the last working day prior to the board meeting at which they wish to speak;
- they must limit their remarks to two (2) minutes, which permits a maximum of five (5) individuals to speak;
- those scheduled to speak will do so in the order in which they registered with the Secretary of the College;
- registered speakers will be recognized by the Chairman of the Board and move to the podium where they will identify themselves and deliver their remarks; and
- the Secretary of the College will keep track of the time and notify each speaker when his/her time has expired.
Business Session of the Board Meeting
Following the “public” session of the meeting, the board will then enter into its “business” session which is that portion of the meeting where only members of the board may debate the issues and vote on such issues. Of course, the public is invited to be present as observers of the board’s proceedings. The board chair may call upon non-board members to respond to questions or present information during the business session.
Executive Session of the Board Meeting
The law provides for closed or “executive” sessions under circumstances prescribed in the law. Executive sessions are attended only by members of the board and any other persons authorized by the board.