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Coalition says NY villages need to learn the meaning of 'open meetings'

Village of Fredonia
Amongst many failing grades, the Village of Fredonia earned a "B" for its website.

New York State has an Open Meetings Law. A new report from the state Coalition for Open Government suggests that doesn’t matter much, since there is no enforcement and if you don’t know what’s coming up at the meeting or don’t know what happened afterwards, how valuable is it?

The study says almost all of a sampling of villages statewide don’t pay much attention to the Open Meetings Law and this means the public doesn’t know what’s going on.

"The real problem here, as we mentioned in our report, is the lack of information being provided to the public," said Coalition President Paul Wolf. "So if you’re not posting meeting minutes, I, as a concerned citizen, if I missed the meeting, I don’t know what happened. If you’re not posting your meeting agenda and I’m a concerned citizen, I don’t even know what you‘re talking about. Maybe there’s something I’m interested in, but how do I know?"

Wolf said many villages not only don’t post agendas, but some don’t post the supporting documentation that shows what items are about.

"It’s kind of hard to follow along in the meeting, when people are discussing and voting on things, and you can’t see the contract that they’re discussing or the resolution that they are discussing," he said, "and it’s really keeping the public in the dark in a lot of ways. And this is basic stuff. I mean, block clubs have meeting minutes and meeting agendas."

Of the 20 villages studied across New York, half flunked on their openness. Locally, Kenmore and Lewiston received failing grades and Fredonia received a “B.”

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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