Brennan Center for JusticeCenter for Working FamiliesCitizen Action of NYCommon Cause NYCommunications Workers of America District OneLeague of Women Voters of New York StateNew York Public Interest Research Group
VIA EMAILMay 7, 2013NYS Committee on Open GovernmentAttn: Robert J. Freeman, Executive DirectorDepartment of StateOne Commerce Plaza99 Washington Avenue, Suite 650Albany, NY 12231Mr. Freeman:The Open Meetings Law and the rules of the Senate clearly declare that every committeemeeting should be open to the public:
Senate Rules §3(3). All meetings of committees shall be open to authorized representatives of the news media and the general public as observers.
This is in keeping with the state’s Open Meetings Law, which
Article 7, §103. Open meetings and executive sessions. (a) Every meeting of a public body shall be open to the general public, except that an executive session of such body may be called and business transacted thereat in accordance with section ninety-five of this article.
This morning, the Senate Elections Committee commenced a public hearing on public financingof elections. Members of the Senate Elections Committee and/or staff reportedly directedsergeants-at-arms to deny entry to interested members of the public. This was done despitethe room being well below capacity at the start of the hearing. (Several photos taken byreporters at this time showed there was plenty of remaining space). Nonetheless, sergeants-at-arms barred public entry claiming the room was filled to capacity. Several sergeants-at-armswere asked if members of the public could enter if some of those already in the room were toleave. They said
When told this was in violation of the
s Open Meetings Law, onesergeant-at-arms claimed to simply be following orders from the Committee. This suggests anintentional violation by the Elections Committee of the Senate Rules and the Open MeetingsLaw.