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Open Meetings Law expands in February

Ralph J. Kreitzman was appointed president of the

Ralph J. Kreitzman was appointed president of the Nassau County Village Officials Association. He is a resident and mayor of the Village of Great Neck and senior counsel at Hughes Hubbard and Reed, a Manhattan law firm. bzmove Photo Credit: Handout

Local governments must provide access to resolutions, policies, laws and other items to be voted upon during public meetings, thanks to a change to the state Open Meetings Law that takes effect Feb. 2.

The legislation calls for the records to be made available for review before or at the meeting.

It also requires documents to be posted online if the government regularly updates its website and has a high-speed Internet connection.

Reasonable fees can be charged for copies of documents, according to the state Committee on Open Government, a division of the Department of State.

The law, proposed by Assemb. Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) and signed this month by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, says governments must adhere to the code “when practicable” and leaves it up to the public body to determine what that means.

It also says government may, but does not have to, spend money to comply with the law.

“Many units of government are small and lack information technology resources or the knowledge or expertise to implement the new provision,” the Committee on Open Government wrote in an opinion released Wednesday. “If that is so, and they do not have the ability to give effect to the amendments with reasonable effort, they are not required to do so.”

The New York Conference of Mayors opposed the bill, calling it another unfunded mandate from the state.

Great Neck Mayor Ralph J. Kreitzman, above, said it could increase work for villages with already small staffs.

“It is a burden,” said Kreitzman, president of the Nassau County Village Officials Association and executive committee member of the New York Conference of Mayors. “It will take time.”

 

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