Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, explains the basics of the Freedom of Information Law and Open Meetings Law.
After you watch this 21 minute video you will realize that the City of New Rochelle and the New Rochelle Board of Education routinely violate New York State's "Sunshine Laws".
The video is three excerpts from a 2 hour presentation and Q & A given in Larchmont, NY in 2011.
1. CONFIDENTIALITY: Something is only confidential by statute. Unless there is a specific law that says some piece of information or record is confidential then it is not confidential. Governments or public bodies can not simply declare something confidential. How often is confidentiality misapplied in New Rochelle? Every live long day.
2. EXECUTIVE SESSION: Two keep points here.
Executive Sessions cannot be scheduled in advance. An executive session is a PART of a public meeting. How often does the City Council and School Board schedule executive meetings in advance? Relatively often.
"Personnel Matters" is an often abused reason given for going into Executive Session. When the discussion focused on a particular person it is valid. When the focus is on a budgetary matter such as eliminating a position which will impact a particular person it is not valid.
3. IS IT TRUE THAT SOMETHING DISCUSSED IN EXECUTIVE SESSION CANNOT BE DISCUSSED OUTSIDE OF EXECUTIVE SESSION?
If something is confidential it cannot be discussed for any reason but that something is discussed in executive session does not make it confidential (see point 1, above). Freeman notes that a former New York State Schools Commissioner has previously claimed that nothing discussed in Executive Session at a School Board meeting can be discussed outside the Executive Session. Freeman says that as a result many school board members believe this to be the case. He says this is simply wrong.