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Our attorneys stay on top of changes in legislation, agency regulations, case law, and industry trends—then craft timely legal alerts to keep clients up to date on legal developments important to their business.

February 7, 2022

Amendment to Open Meetings Law Permits Remote Meetings by Public Bodies During COVID-19 State of Emergency

On January 14, 2022, NYS Governor Hochul signed legislation further amending the Open Meetings Law (part of NYS Public Officers Law) to allow public bodies to continue to hold public meetings remotely and without in-person access, subject to certain conditions, during the current COVID-19 state disaster emergency. The prior authorization for remote meetings expired January 15, 2022.

The amendment permits any public body (as defined in the Open Meetings Law) to meet and take action without in-person access. These meetings may be held remotely by conference call or similar service, provided the public is able to listen or view the meeting and the meeting is recorded and later transcribed. The Open Meetings Law defines a “public body” as “any entity, for which a quorum is required in order to conduct public business and which consists of two or more members, performing a governmental function for the state or for an agency or department thereof, or for a public corporation, which includes a county, city, town, village, a school district, a public benefit corporation, a district corporation, or committee or subcommittee or other similar body consisting of members of such public body or an entity created or appointed to perform a necessary function in the decision-making process.” A “necessary function in the decision-making process” does not include recommendations or guidance that are purely advisory and require no further action.

The new law took effect immediately and continues until the expiration or termination of Governor Hochul’s state disaster emergency (or any extension or modification thereof).

This legislation follows other recent amendments to NYS Public Officers Law. Effective November 18, 2021, most public bodies are required, to the extent practicable, to make available documents that will be discussed at a meeting at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting. Effective November 8, 2021, most public bodies must post meeting minutes on their website within two weeks of the meeting (except that minutes of executive sessions where a formal vote is taken must be posted within one week of the executive session), which requirement may be satisfied by posting unabridged audio or video recordings of the public body’s meeting or unabridged written transcripts. This amendment does not require the creation of minutes if the public body would not otherwise take them. 

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Melissa Bennett, partner, at mbennett@barclaydamon.com; Samantha Podlas, associate, at spodlas@barclaydamon.com; or another member of the firm’s Public Finance Practice Area. Alternatively, you may contact Charlie Martorana, partner, at cmartorana@barclaydamon.com

We also have a specific team of Barclay Damon attorneys who are actively working on assessing regulatory, legislative, and other governmental updates related to COVID-19 and who are prepared to assist clients. Please contact Yvonne Hennessey, COVID-19 Response Team leader, at yhennessey@barclaydamon.com, or any member of the COVID-19 Response Team, at COVID-19ResponseTeam@barclaydamon.com.
 

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