Friday, November 19, 2010

Yes, state law required that Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet should have been announced to the news media

Charges regarding a sweetheart deal regarding a contract for programming at the Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park have evoked Atlantic Yards in two ways.

The New York Post's Brooklyn Blog reported Nov. 17:
Many of the more than 150 people who attended the meeting came to support St. Ann’s, which led some to question why they knew of the meeting yet many media outlets -- including the Post -- did not.

...“I felt like this was Atlantic Yards again and Bruce Ratner was stacking a meeting with his union supporters,” said Judi Francis of the watchdog group Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund.
Open meetings

The Post's Rich Calder added:
It is the second time in two weeks that the full media and public were not properly notified, as is required by state and federal law, for what should have been a public meeting at Borough Hall. The earlier illegal meeting involved the Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights.
At that Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, which I covered (and was the only news media rep present), Carlo Scissura, Chief of Staff to the Borough President, and City Council Member Letitia James said that proper notice had been given.

However, state law clearly requires notification to the news media, and that didn't happen.

From State Open Meetings Law, according to the Committee on Open Government:
§104. Public notice.
1. Public notice of the time and place of a meeting scheduled at least one week prior thereto shall be given to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at least seventy-two hours before such meeting.
2. Public notice of the time and place of every other meeting shall be given, to the extent practicable, to the news media and shall be conspicuously posted in one or more designated public locations at a reasonable time prior thereto.
...
5. When a public body has the ability to do so, notice of the time and place of a meeting given in accordance with subdivision one or two of this section, shall also be conspicuously posted on the public body's internet website.
Recording allowed

State law also allows recording:
1. Any meeting of a public body that is open to the public shall be open to being photographed, broadcast, webcast, or otherwise recorded and/or transmitted by audio or video means. As used herein the term “broadcast” shall also include the transmission of signals by cable.

2. A public body may adopt rules, consistent with recommendations from the committee on open government, reasonably governing the location of equipment and personnel used to photograph, broadcast, webcast, or otherwise record a meeting so as to conduct its proceedings in an orderly manner. Such rules shall be conspicuously posted during meetings and written copies shall be provided upon request to those in attendance.*
* Shall take effect April 1, 2011

3 comments:

  1. Let me try this again, since my earlier comment did not get posted.

    Your post of Friday, November 19, 2010, entitled “Yes, state law required that Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet should have been announced to the news media” makes, I believe, an incorrect statement in the title. You then elaborate on what I believe is an incorrect conclusion in the body of the post.

    You quote parts of §104, “Public notice,” of Article 7 of the New York State Public Officers Law. Article 7 is also known individually at the Open Meetings Law. Reference is made to notification requirements for meetings, and the permissibility of recording meetings. However, what you appear to overlook is that “meeting” is specifically defined in §102 of the Open Meetings Law to mean “…the official convening of a public body for the purpose of conducting public business….” “Public body” is also defined in §102 to mean “…any entity, for which a quorum is required in order to conduct public business….”

    Neither the meeting regarding the responses received to an RFP for use of the Tobacco Warehouse nor the “Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet” were an official convening of a “public body,” as defined, and therefore not a “meeting,” again as defined. Neither event required quorum or was for the purpose of conducting public business either. Therefore the public notice requirements and permissibility of recording stated in the Open Meetings Law do not apply, because neither of the events constituted a meeting, as defined by law.

    I am dismayed that my earlier comment was not posted after review by the moderator. Alternatively, you could have written a post that quoted or summarized my comment and indicated you were researching the issue further, or cited an advisory opinion by the state Committee on Open Government. Another option, should you have determined that you indeed made an error, either after seeking a third opinion or not, would be to post a correction or retraction. You did none of these things.

    What is upsetting about your unwillingness to do anything other than not make my comment public is that you have for years held other individuals and entities to a very high standard of integrity. By failing to respond to my earlier comment, you appear to establish a double standard for yourself and the Atlantic Yards Report.

    Sincerely,
    Reginald

    ReplyDelete
  2. I never saw the earlier comment. (There can be glitches with the commenting system, but I don't know what went wrong.)

    If a reader has a complaint, my email address is posted.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The commenter makes a reasonable point, though there may be some wiggle room.

    Here's the text of section 2 in full:

    2. "Public body" means 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 as defined in section sixty-six of the general construction law, or committee or subcommittee or other similar body of such public body.

    ReplyDelete