School board meetings are open to the public
Goetschius v Greenburgh 11 UFSD, 244 A.D.2d 552
The school board of the Greenburgh 11 Union Free School District barred some of its educators from attending a board meeting at which it planned to consider the termination of certain teachers.
The educators sued, contending that the board’s action violated New York’s Open Meetings Law [Article 7, Public Officers Law]. The board, citing Sections 2801 and 3020-a of the Education Law, also argued that its action was lawful as those sections “supersede the Open Meetings Law.”
The Appellate Division rejected the board’s argument, pointing out that:
1. Sections 2801 and 3020-a “do not specifically allow the Board to exclude [the educators] from Board meetings” but, rather, allow boards of education to adopt rules and regulations for the maintenance of public order on school property;
2. Section 1708(3) specifically provides that “the meetings of all such boards [of education] shall be open to the public;”
3. Section 1708(3) overrides the general provisions of Sections 2801 and 3020-a; and
4. The State’s Open Meetings Law is not superseded by either Section 2801 or Section 3020-a.
The Appellate Division also observed that Section 110 of the Public Officers Law states that “any provision of a ... rule or regulation affecting a public body which is more restrictive with respect to public access shall be deemed superseded hereby to the extent that such provision is more restrictive than this article.”
The Appellate Division indicated that the Board “engaged in a persistent pattern of deliberate violations of the Open Meetings Law through insufficient notice, unreasonable starting times, improper convening of executive sessions, and improper exclusion of members of the public. It then upheld a Supreme Court justice’s ruling annulling certain of the board’s actions and awarding attorney fees to the educators.
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