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The Times
  • Ilion plans changes to comply with open meetings laws

  • The terms “personnel” and “litigation” often come up as the reason for local government bodies to go into private executive sessions.

    But that’s not good enough, according to last month’s advisory opinion by the state Committee on Open Government to the village of Ilion.

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  • The terms “personnel” and “litigation” often come up as the reason for local government bodies to go into private executive sessions.
    But that’s not good enough, according to last month’s advisory opinion by the state Committee on Open Government to the village of Ilion.
    A “boilerplate recitation (of the statutory language for an executive session) does not comply with the intent of the statute,” according to the opinion, which was requested by Ilion resident David Murray, who is running for Herkimer County Legislature this fall.
    Murray requested that the committee examine the reasoning behind more than 10 executive sessions held last year in Ilion as well as the minutes posted online.
    “I sought an advisory opinion after discovering that the minutes and motions to enter into executive sessions were chronic in not using the proper language, intent or procedures as known to exist under the Open Meeting laws,” he said. “I was not at the meetings in which I am contesting or seeking advisement…
    “This is about accountability and transparency of the people’s government,” he said in an email.
    Village Mayor John Stephens, who is running against Murray on the Republican line for county Legislature, said the opinion wasn’t “negative in any way.”
    “We just weren’t spelling it complete enough for the public’s liking,” he said. “So instead of just saying ‘discuss personnel,’ now we have to say ‘disciplinary.’”
    Furthermore, the advisory opinion suggested that rather than say ‘litigation’ as the reason for executive session, a proper motion might be: “I move to enter into executive session to discuss our litigation strategy in the case of XYZ Company versus the village.”
    Stephens said the village board will implement this in the future.
    “We’ve changed the policy and we’ll move forward from there,” he said. “We absolutely do not want to do anything improper.”
    Murray said that he looks forward to the mayor and village board implementing the recommendations.
    “A well-informed and knowledgeable electorate is vital to democracy and assuring the people’s representatives are working on their behalf in a manner that is consistent with the promoting of their common good,” he said.
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