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New York Coalition For Open Government gives Amsterdam ‘C’ grade for open government, Rotterdam an ‘A’

New report reviewed and graded 20 local governments on how they follow Open Meetings Law
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Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News

AMSTERDAM — A report from the New York Coalition For Open Government has given Amsterdam a “C” grade on how well it posts government meeting documents in a timely manner.

The report reviewed 20 local governments, including Saratoga Springs (graded B)  and Rotterdam (graded A), on a number of items: whether all meeting documents were posted online prior to meetings, whether meetings were live-streamed as required by the Open Meetings Law; whether meeting recordings were posted online after a meeting as required by Open Meetings Law; and if meeting minutes were posted online in a “timely” fashion.

The report, released July 9, gave six of the 20 local governments, including Amsterdam, a grade of “C” or lower. Amsterdam’s grade, according to the report, was due to the city’s failure to post all meeting documents with the agenda, and meeting minutes being approved by the City Council but “not posted online for the public to see.”

“We understand the grading system used and will take measures to rectify the two points we have not complied with,” Amsterdam Mayor Michael Cinquanti wrote in a statement. “Like all public bodies during this pandemic, we have struggled a bit with the technologies and tools necessary to conduct open meetings but at the same time, we are now recording and posting our Common Council sessions online, where they can be viewed in their entirety or browsed at any time by citizens who previously had no such access.” 

Amsterdam was one of four local governments that failed to post all meeting documents and one of two that did not post meeting minutes, according to the report, but Cinquanti said posting the sessions online has “increased exposure of our proceedings,” which he called a “good thing.”

“Instead of reading minutes, our citizens have the ability to see and hear the actual interactions taking place, which enriches understanding,” Cinquanti said. “We are also putting together the plan necessary to once again conduct our meetings with the public and press in physical attendance.”

Rotterdam earned an “A” grade in the report and Saratoga Springs earned a “B” grade, as the report claims meeting minutes have not been posted since April 20 (as of July 8). 

Ultimately, the report found 35 percent of the local governments had at least one Open Meetings Law violation. 

“Without a legal mandate in place, 70 percent of local governments studied are not making information regarding their actions available in a timely manner,” the report read. “It does not make sense in today’s electronic age that New York requires live-streaming meetings, posting recordings of meetings but does not mandate the posting of meeting minutes. Even without a legal mandate in place, local governments should strive to have draft minutes posted before their next meeting occurs.”

 

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