The Committee on Open Government is responsible for overseeing implementation of the Freedom of Information Law (Public Officers Law §§ 84-90) and the Open Meetings Law (Public Officers Law §§ 100-111). The Freedom of Information Law governs rights of access to government records, while the Open Meetings Law concerns the conduct of meetings of public bodies and the right to attend those meetings. The Committee also oversees the Personal Privacy Protection Law.
The Committee is composed of 11 members, 5 from government and 6 from the public. The five government members are the Lieutenant Governor, the Secretary of State, whose office acts as secretariat for the Committee, the Commissioner of General Services, the Director of the Budget, and one elected local government official appointed by the Governor. Of the six public members, at least two must be or have been representatives of the news media.
The Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”) directs the Committee to furnish advice to agencies, the public and the news media, issue regulations and report its observations and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature annually. Similarly, under the Open Meetings Law, the Committee issues advisory opinions, reviews the operation of the law and reports its findings and recommendations annually to the Legislature.
When questions arise under either the Freedom of Information or the Open Meetings Law, the Committee staff can provide written or oral advice and attempt to resolve controversies in which rights may be unclear. Since its creation in 1974, more than 25,000 written advisory opinions have been prepared by the Committee at the request of government, the public and the news media. In addition, hundreds of thousands of verbal opinions have been provided by telephone. Staff also provides training and educational programs for government, public interest and news media organizations, as well as students on campus.
Opinions prepared since early 1993 that have educational or precedential value are maintained online, identified by means of a series of key phrases in separate indices created in relation to the Freedom of Information Law and the Open Meetings Law.
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