Understanding the Open Meetings Law

The Open Meetings Law was created as a tool for the public, to ensure it was able to attend meetings and hear discussions during the decision-making process. But few people have a clear understanding of the laws, and even fewer take advantage of them.

According to legislative declaration in the Open Meetings Law: “It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that the public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens of this state be fully aware of and able to observe the performance of public officials and attend and listen to the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy.”

While those rights are guaranteed through the Open Meetings Law, few individuals use them in the small towns throughout the county. Several Chenango County Supervisors said public attendance is something they rarely see at their meetings. “We’re lucky to have a couple people a year attend our meetings. It’s not unusual to see no one at all,” said Lincklaen Town Supervisor Wayne Outwater. The situation is the same in Pharsalia, according to Supervisor Dennis Brown. “The public is always welcome, but usually if there is a concern, they notify me by phone or e-mail,” Brown said. Even at county board meetings, Chairman Richard Decker acknowledged few members of the public are generally in attendance, unless there is a major issue.

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