The Open Meetings Law applies to "public bodies." That term is defined to include entities consisting of two or more people who conduct public business and perform a governmental function for New York State, for an agency of the state or for public corporations, such as cities, counties, towns, villages and school districts including committees and subcommittees of these entities. Consequently, city councils, town boards, village boards of trustees, school boards, commissions, legislative bodies, and committees and subcommittees consisting of members of those groups fall within the coverage of the Law.
OML Law Text
Committee staff prepares written advisory opinions in response to particular sets of facts and circumstances. Many are available online, organized by key phrase. For example, if you were interested in knowing whether a board is required to post notice of its meetings online, you would review opinions by clicking on “N” in the above index, then scrolling down to “Notice.” Please note that more recent opinions have been assigned higher numbers.
The opinions represent the views of the Committee on Open Government at the time that they were rendered. They may no longer represent those views if, for example, there have been subsequent court decisions or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinions.
Due to the repetition of the substance of various opinions, not all opinions are available online. Only those that have been determined to have precedential value or that are in some manner unique are included.
Advisory opinions that are not available online, primarily those prepared prior to 1993, are maintained by the Committee on Open Government and at various law libraries throughout the state. Copies of opinions are available by contacting the Committee.
Case Law Summary
Model Rules for Public Bodies
PUBLIC ACCESS TO MEETINGS OF
(Insert name of public body)
Section 1 Purpose and scope:
- The people’s right to witness and observe the governmental decision-making process in action is basic to our society. Access to public portions of meetings of public bodies must be protected and maintained.
- We adopt these guidelines in order to provide direction concerning the procedures by which public meetings of this public body may be photographed, recorded and broadcast.
Section 2 Recording and Broadcasting Public Portions of Meetings:
- The public portion of any meeting of a public body may be photographed, recorded and broadcast.
- A public body may adopt reasonable rules governing the location of equipment and personnel used to photograph, record or broadcast the public portion of a meeting in order to ensure that the use of such equipment does not detract from or interfere with the deliberative process.
- There is no privacy interest in statements made during public portions of meetings of public bodies. Distaste or embarrassment shall not constitute a basis for prohibiting or limiting the photographing, recording or broadcasting of those present at a meeting.
Section 3 Rules for Recording and Broadcasting Public Portions of Meetings:
- Operation of equipment to photograph, record or broadcast a meeting is permitted unless it is obtrusive, disruptive, or interferes with the deliberative process or the right of persons in attendance to observe or listen to the proceedings.
- Use of equipment necessary to photograph, record or broadcast is permitted without notice to or express permission from the public body or those in attendance at the meeting.
- Use of equipment necessary to photograph, record or broadcast is permitted in a supervised or unsupervised manner.
- Use of special lighting or large equipment necessary to photograph, record or broadcast a meeting is permitted unless it is obtrusive or disruptive.
- Personnel who operate equipment necessary to photograph, record and/or broadcast a meeting shall be permitted to move about the room, as long as such movement does not disrupt or interfere with the deliberative process.
- Use of equipment necessary to photograph, record and/or broadcast a meeting shall not be limited to a location from which such equipment is not reasonably capable of photographing, recording and/or broadcasting.
- Persons operating equipment necessary to photograph, record and/or broadcast shall be given a reasonable opportunity to modify their actions in order to avoid interference with the deliberative process.
Section 4 Public notice:
These rules governing the operation of equipment necessary to photograph, record or broadcast a meeting shall be posted in a designated location. Written copies of such rules shall be provided upon request, free of charge, to those in attendance at or who seek to attend a meeting.
Section 5 Severability:
If any provision of these guidelines or the application thereof to any person or circumstances is adjudged invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, such judgment shall not affect or impair the validity of the other provisions of these regulations or the application thereof to other persons and circumstances.
Your Right To Know
“Your Right to Know” is a publication of the Committee on Open Government providing an overview of both the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) and the Open Meetings Law (OML). It offers practical guidance with regard to the conduct of meetings of public bodies and the right to attend those meetings.