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Town of Geneva local law extends teleconference meeting authority

The town of Geneva has passed a local law continuing to allow the town to use teleconferencing methods, such as Zoom, for its Town Board meeting.

More: Pandemic authorization to conduct Zoom meetings ending, governments must pass local laws to continue

Geneva Town Supervisor Mark Venuti says the local law was necessary to remain in compliance with the state’s open meeting laws but places restrictions on the circumstances under which members can attend virtually.

The State Legislature authorized a teleconferencing exception to the open meeting law early in the COVID-19 pandemic. That exception was extended through 2024 in this year’s state budget. However, any board that wants to continue using teleconferencing must pass a local law. The Yates County Legislature passed such a law recently.

The State Committee on Open Government says “the provisions in the Open Meetings Law concerning videoconferencing are newly enacted (Chapter 289 of the Laws of 2000), and in our view, those amendments clearly indicate that there are only two ways in which a public body may validly conduct a meeting: by means of a physical gathering or a gathering by means of video-conference.  Any other means of conducting a meeting, i.e., by telephone conference, by mail, or by e-mail, would be inconsistent with law.”

We note, too, that meetings involving a physical convening or videoconferencing are consistent with the intent of the Open Meetings Law as expressed in its Legislative Declaration (§100).  The Declaration states in part that the public has the right to “observe the performance of public officials.”  That right does not exist when the members of a public body communicate by telephone or e-mail.”

Listen to my full Inside the FLX conversation with Geneva Town Supervisor Mark Venuti below.