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Library invite triggers open meetings question for town officials

Mar 28, 2019 1:00 pm
Diane Valden is reporting for The Columbia Paper elected officials in the town of Ancram find themselves in an awkward position after receiving an invitation from the public library to attend a closed door meeting to discuss "mutual problems, concerns and vision." Amongst some, the invitation triggered concerns the meeting would violate state law. During the March 21 public meeting of the Ancram Town Board, Deputy Supervisor Hugh Clark spoke about the invitation extended by the Roeliff Jansen Community Library to town officials from Ancram, Copake and Hillsdale. Clark said the so-called community conversation, “has the potential to violate the Open Meetings Law” because if three or more board members attended the gathering, a quorum would be present. “Any gathering of a quorum of a public body conducting a public meeting must be open to the public,” he said. Clark also expressed concerns that the library chose to limit the gathering to town officials and to exclude the general public because it did not want to “inhibit frank conversation.” Library Director Tamara Gaskell said, based on the advice of library counsel, the meeting posed no potential violation of state law. Library Board of Trustees President Pat Placona said the library is aware of the Open Meetings Law and if only two people from each town board should attend there would be no problem. And each town board should determine who would go. The planned conversations are part of a program called “Turning Outward,” a resource for libraries that offers tools “designed to help libraries strengthen their role as community leaders and bring about positive change in their communities,” according to the American Library Association. After further consideration, the library has issued a new invitation, which does include the public. Read the full story in The Columbia Paper.