Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner calls on school trustees to hold discussions on board officers in public, as required by law


Note to readers: This letter was sent by email Monday morning to all the members of the Pelham Board of Education.


Dear Trustees of the Pelham Board of Education for the term 2024-2025,

I am writing in advance of the board’s reorganization meeting to remind you that state law imposes strict limits on what the board can do in executive session. The vast majority of the board’s work must be public, including its discussions about who should be elected to the board offices of president and vice president, all efforts to seek consensus on filling those roles, and all votes for those roles. Any such discussions, consensus-seeking or voting on board officers done during an executive session would violate the New York Open Meetings Law.

As the New York State Committee on Open Government has explained, the Open Meetings Law allows only specific, limited subjects to “properly be considered during an executive session,” and “matters leading to the election of officers [are] not among them.” In other words, even though the law lets a public body go into executive session to discuss “matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person,” that does not include discussing the election of board officers during an executive session.

You can read the full Committee on Open Government letter here.

In another letter, the Committee emphasized again that “discussions regarding the election of officers generally do not fall within any of the grounds for entry into executive session.” Rather, these discussions must take place in public.

The committee staff thought it important to restate the legislative declaration that appears at the beginning of the Open Meetings Law in its letter in the first case. I will do the same, as it’s just as relevant now for this board:

“It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that the public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens of this state be fully aware of and able to observe the performance of public officials and attend and listen to the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy. The people must be able to remain informed if they are to retain control over those who are their public servants.”

We will be publishing this letter in the Pelham Examiner and will report in our story on Tuesday’s meeting on the importance of doing the public’s business in public.

Happy Fourth of July,

Rich Zahradnik
Executive Director
The Hudson Valley Local News Lab Inc.
Publisher of the Pelham Examiner


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