When Can A Public Meeting Go Into Executive Session?
This information is taken directly from the brochure created by the Committee On Open Government. It is called Your Right To Know. A copy can be obtained by calling (518) 474-2518.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to note about this area of the Freedom Of Information Law (FOIL) is that “a public body can never vote to appropriate public monies during a closed session“.
The law provides for closed or “executive” sessions under circumstances prescribed by the law. It is important to emphasize that an executive session is not separate from an open meeting, but rather is defined by a portion of an open meeting during which the public may be excluded.
To close a meeting for executive session, the law requires that a public body take several procedural steps. First, a motion must be made during an open meeting to enter into executive session; second the motion must identify “the general area or areas of the subject or subjects to be considered;” and third, the motion must be carried by a majority vote of the total membership of the public body.
Further, a public body cannot close its doors to the public to discuss the subject of its choice, for the law specifies and limits the subject matter that may appropriately be discussed in executive session. The eight subjects that may be discussed behind closed doors include:
(a) Matter which will imperil the public safety if disclosed.
(b) Any matter which may disclose the identity of a law enforcement agency or informer.
(c) Information relating to current or future investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense which would imperil effective law enforcement if disclosed.
(d) Discussions regarding proposed, pending or current litigation.
(e) Collective negotiations pursuant to Article 14 of the Civil Service Law.
(f) The medical, financial, credit, or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation.
(g) The preparation, grading or administration of examinations.
(h) The proposed acquisition, sale or lease of real property or the proposed acquisition of securities, or sale or exchange of securities held by such a public body, but only when publicity would substantially affect the value thereof.
These are the only subjects that may be discussed behind closed doors; all other deliberations must be conducted during open meetings.
It is important to point out that a public body can never vote to appropriate monies during a closed session. Therefore, although most public bodies may vote during a properly convened executive session, any vote to appropriate public monies must be taken in public.
The law also states that an executive session can be attended by members of the public body and any other person authorized by the public body.