On Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Law
(Westbury, NY) As part of its continuing education initiative, the Nassau-Suffolk Water Commissioners Association (NSWCA) recently hosted Robert J. Freeman, Esq., Executive Director and Chief Attorney of the New York State Committee on Open Government. Mr. Freeman’s informative presentation centered on meeting compliance, public access and “best practices” as they pertain to the water commission environment and open government laws.
A preeminent voice in government transparency and public access rights in North America, Eastern Europe, the Far East and Latin America, Mr. Freeman is the co-author of New York’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIL) and New York State’s Open Meetings Law and has written over 25,000 advisory opinions on these subjects.
Originally from East Meadow, Mr. Freeman’s appearance at the NSWCA meeting, held at Westbury Fire Department, was also a homecoming for this Long Island native, who discussed public access, the scope of freedom of information and some little known or often-misinterpreted facts of open meeting compliance.
All observations were explained to assist elected officials in maintaining best practices when serving their municipalities.
“Public boards as a whole may not always have a complete understanding of the Open Meetings and Freedom of Information laws,” said Robert McEvoy, President of NSWCA. “Situations change and evolve. Mr. Freeman’s presentation provided NSWCA members and guests with an overview, numerous insights and specific examples that will help us ensure that all meetings and records are in compliance. With the application of educational efforts like this, water districts will be able to maintain transparency while operating in a compliant and efficient manner.”
Throughout the meeting Water Commissioners and Superintendents from numerous county districts asked questions such as the legal definition of an open meeting and the quorum needed to effect policy. A number of questions centered on FOIL compliance, including the reproduction of records, compensation for reproduction, content and context of a meeting and other scenarios that the Commissioners have encountered as members of public office.
“The NSWCA provides a series of seminars for the education of our Commissioners and administrative staff in the proper performance of their duties. Mr. Freeman, who has worked with the Department of State since 1974, provided a wealth of knowledge to approximately 60 attendees. His presentation generated a number of questions, and the information obtained will guide administrators of Special Districts in the legal requirements of the Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Laws,” said Nick Bartulcci, Chairman of the NSWCA’s Educational Committee.
About Nassau-Suffolk Water Commissioners Association
The NSWCA is comprised of Water Commissioners from 21 Nassau County and Suffolk County Water Districts. NSWCA is dedicated to communication, efficiency and best practices among Long Island’s water districts. As part of its mission, the association holds monthly educational meetings sponsoring experts on topics that include law, cost efficiencies, rules and regulations and issues germane to water utilities.