Local governments should resolve to be fully open and transparent in 2022
“Old habits are hard to change in people and especially hard to change in government,” said Paul Wolf, President of the non-partisan, non-profit New York Coalition for Open Government.
“Elected officials should begin 2022 by conducting the public’s business in an open and transparent way,” he said.
“To show their commitment to open government, elected officials serving on a village board, town board, city council or a county legislature should introduce and pass a New Year resolution stating they will:
(1) Post timely notice of all meetings at least one week prior to a meeting.
(2) Post meeting agendas and all meeting documents online, at least 48 hours before a meeting.
(3) Post draft meeting minutes online, no more than two weeks after a meeting.
(4) Allow members of the public to speak at the beginning of a meeting regarding agenda items and non-agenda items whether attending in person or remotely.
(5) Support live streaming of meetings by video and posting the video recording online afterwards.
(6) Only conduct private executive sessions on rare occasions in accordance with the New York State Open Meetings Law. We understand that a motion to hold an executive session to discuss “litigation”, “personnel” or “collective bargaining” is not sufficient, as the Open Meetings Law requires motions to state more information when holding an executive session.
(7) Support having our elected members complete and post an Annual Financial Disclosure Form on our government website. (Just as state elected officials do)
(8) While private political party caucus meetings are allowed under the law, we agree to not hold such meetings. There is no reason at the local level to hold private political party caucus meetings to discuss political business or public business.
(9) We support the public’s right to obtain records and will ensure that information regarding the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), is posted in a visible place on our website. We will proactively post documents online as much as possible so that the public can access information without having to file a FOIL request. We will also post an easy fill in the blank form that assists the public in filing a FOIL request by email on our website.
(10) We are committed to having all FOIL requests responded to in a timely manner and will on a quarterly basis request a status report regarding FOIL requests from an appropriate staff member to monitor compliance with the law.
According to Vice President Joseph Kissel: “Supporting and implementing government initiatives that enhance transparency for residents and taxpayers is the most important thing elected officials can do to improve governance for all their constituents as well safeguard the most fundamental aspects of democracy: the public’s right to know and participate meaningfully in their governance.”