It's about the Open Meetings Law, how that law is ignored and how some reform could give that law some teeth. Here's a sample:
New York state has laws to ensure that government conducts the public's business in public. But the laws are only as effective as their enforcement.To deter officials from skirting the state Open Meetings Law, they need to know they can't get away with it. An amendment to the law has been proposed to serve that purpose. It would require the court in some cases to award attorney's fees and other reasonable costs to the successful party in cases alleging Open Meetings Law violations.
For the rest, go here.
This is probably one of the most violated laws in the state and in our own region. And it's not even that fun to violate.
The theory behind the law is that Public bodies, much like Paris Hilton, are supposed to be open to all. Here's the law, not that anyone really cares about it.
Public Officers Law
§ 103. Open meetings and executive sessions
(a) Every meeting of a public body shall be open to the general public, except that an executive session of such body may be called and business transacted thereat in accordance with section ninety-five [n1] of this article.
(b) Public bodies shall make or cause to be made all reasonable efforts to ensure that meetings are held in facilities that permit barrier-free physical access to the physically handicapped, as defined in subdivision five of section fifty of the public buildings law.
(c) A public body that uses videoconferencing to conduct its meetings shall provide an opportunity for the public to attend, listen and observe at any site at which a member participates.
There are exceptions. For instance:
1) Executive Session;
2) Investigating porn at City Hall;
3) Political Caucus;
The most common violation of the law comes during political caucuses (or cauci). A political caucus occurs when members of the same party hold a meeting about the legislative agenda, how much of pay raise to give themselves, how much to pay Victory Lane or what to order for lunch.
The operative words here are "members of the same party." It would have been nice if the editorial pointed out that when the Rensselaer County legislative majority caucuses, and Majority Leader Bob Mirch is present, they violate the law. Those caucuses should be open to the public.
The amendment to the Open Meetings Law is worthy of passage. It also seems like something that sites like Democracy in Albany or The Albany Project may want to champion. They're good at that kind of thing. We would love to lead the crusade, and we do take these things seriously, but we just booked some time on the squash courts.