Common Council violates Open Meeting Law

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The Amsterdam Common Council met in executive session before Wednesday’s scheduled committee meetings in violation of the state Open Meetings Law.

Reporters arriving at City Hall to cover the Finance Committee meeting, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., found the Common Council chambers empty and heard discussions going on elsewhere in the building. Reporters were not permitted to enter the meeting and were told the discussion was “contractual.”

In the public meeting following the executive session, 4th Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler shouldered the blame.

“I’ll take responsibility for violating the law,” she said.

Hatzenbuhler said she set up the meeting to discuss the city’s contract with Laura Elmendorf, concessionaire at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course.

According to the Open Meetings Law, public notice must be given at least three days before a scheduled meeting so the public and members of the news media can attend. The meetings of the finance, insurance and personnel committees were in compliance with the law, but no notice was given for the contractual discussion held beforehand.

The Open Meetings Law allows a public body, such as the Common Council, to hold an executive session for any of several specific reasons, including “the employment history of a particular individual.”

The law also states that a public body such as the Common Council must convene the meeting in public, vote to go into executive session and state the reason for doing so.

John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.