Board of Trustees

Question

"Ask the Lawyer" got two questions about the April 9, 2022 changes to the Open Meetings Law ("OML"), which will enable library boards to more easily meet via videoconferencing.  The questions asked for sample resolution language to enable a board to meet via videoconference, and compliance checklists to make sure a board is getting all the new details right.

Answer

To answer these questions, we've created an "Open Meetings Law 2022 Library Board Chart and Checklist" that sets out:


Question

I just read your excellent answer about posting documents per the OML changes in advance of meetings.

I think you are right on target.

My concern is to ask you to add to your questions for the COOG the following: Do working documents being shaped and edited at committee meetings need to be posted in advance of the committee meeting?

Answer

Thank you very much for your kind words!  And for submitting this question.


Question

With recent updates to the OML in New York state, there is now a requirement both to stream and to make recordings of sessions available via website as described in 103(f).[1] However, the last two sentences of 103(f) seem to limit this requirement only to certain public bodies.

Answer

Before we dive into the answer, I have to say two things.

First, just a reminder: the reason any chartered library--even an association library--has to follow the State's "Open Meetings Law" and allow public access to trustee meetings, is because Section 260-a of the Education Law requires it.[1]


Question

I am a Trustee on the Board of our library. I also serve as the Secretary to the Board. As such, I do the note-taking and draft the meeting minutes for every board meeting. Do I need to retain my handwritten notes, once I have transcribed them into document format? If so, how long must they be kept and where?

Answer

This question comes to "Ask the Lawyer" from a public library.

As quasi-governmental entities, public libraries must follow a precise array of law, regulations, and rules for record-keeping.  We'll delve into that for those factors to answer this question.


Question

[My library's] community is calling for a member of the staff to have a seat on the board as a voting member. However, I am searching for something in the trustee handbook or DLD regulations that explicitly states this. I am not aware of any library that has ever had a staff member sit on the board as a voting trustee.

Answer

There are many reasons a not-for-profit organization, such as a library, may contemplate employee membership--or structured involvement--on the governing board.

Common reasons are:


Question

Often times, our meeting agenda changes so we would like to add a disclosure at the bottom that reads “Agenda is subject to change.”

Is this something that is allowed, and would it need to be included in our bylaws?

Answer

With the changes to the open meetings law and more attention on library leadership generally, now is a good time to think about the nuances of public library meeting agendas.

Since agendas have to be posted in advance, it is true that sometimes a board may have to make an 11th-hour change.


Question

As you know, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation (S.50001/A.40001) extending virtual access to public meetings under New York State's Open Meetings Law, which allows New Yorkers to virtually participate in local government meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Answer

Short answer

There is no requirement to disclose the location of a remote participant under the past Executive Orders or the current modification.

 

Long answer


Question

The Governor signed S1150A/A1228A into law [on] October 19, 2021. Now Chapter 481, this change requires that open meeting documents be available upon request or posted to the public body's website at least 24 hours prior to the open meeting at which the documents will be discussed.  Can you comment?

AND

Answer

Because there are a lot of layers here, let's start with some bedrock fundamentals.

Bedrock #1: All NY-chartered libraries, including association libraries, must abide by the Open Meetings Law (the "OML"), a New York State law which requires certain meetings be accessible in real time to the general public.[1]


Question

Now that Open Meetings Law modifications have been lifted, are we still required to maintain physical distancing for board meetings? We have a fifteen member board which makes it difficult to spread our trustees out. I understand that we can ask trustees whether they have been vaccinated: If all are vaccinated, do we have to maintain physical distancing?

Answer

This question comes at a very challenging time.[1]

The question is difficult because right now, the World Health Organization is looking at the "Delta Variant" of COVID-19 and telling the world to consider continuing to use masks and social distancing while inside.[2]


Question

First question: With the expiration of the Executive Orders on June 24th, 2021, including the Order modifying the requirements of the Open Meetings Law, are libraries back to the "old way" of conducting trustee meetings?

Answer

First question: Yes...with the expiration of the Executive Orders on June 24th, including the Order modifying the Open Meetings law,[1] things are "back to normal."

Or, as the Committee on Open Government, the authority on the State's Open Meetings Law (OML), put it: