Sunday, October 7, 2012

More questions surface on legislature’s Community and Consumer Affairs Committee executive session


A retired Navy officer, who came from Florida to Oswego County to research the Oswego Children’s Home, formerly known as the Oswego Orphan Asylum, alleged that not only was he denied access to the records, but that County Historian Justin White failed to meet with him at a scheduled time.

In a Sept. 26 letter sent to Oswego County legislators, Frank Fisher said that he had made an appointment with White personally before traveling to Oswego County.

“Mr. White stood me up for our appointment September 8, 2012…” the letter states. ”I had made the appointment by telephone with Mr. White personally before traveling from Florida to Oswego with a brief stop in Poughkeepsie.”

Fisher said that he was a resident of the Oswego Children’s Home from 1951 through 1956 when it closed. He had requested to view the ledgers and visitor records and alleged he was denied access.

White also serves as president of the Oswego County Historical Society, where the records are kept.
Fisher alleged White refused to provide him with the names of the historical society board members and refused to provide a copy of the organizations Constitution and by-laws.

“Mr. White also fills a part-time non-competitive position as county historian working for the Oswego County Clerk of the Court,” he wrote. “I see little evidence of a vibrant program under Mr. White’s direction there either.”

As of press time, there were no Oswego County Historical Society board members available to comment.When contacted, White said he could not speak to the media per a Sept. 20 memo issued by acting County Clerk Georgiana Mansfield. The county historian falls under the jurisdiction of the county clerk and White also works in the Oswego office as an index clerk.

The legislature’s Community and Consumer Affairs Committee held an executive session last week in regard to the content of the memo, however, legislators are being tight-lipped as to the outcome of the closed door meeting and whether the gag order had been lifted. POST

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As reported earlier the the legislature’s Community and Consumer Affairs Committee when in to executive session illegally....see the Opinion from the New York State Committee on Open Government.

It is not legal to enter into executive session for,It is insufficient to merely regurgitate the statutory language; to wit, ‘discussions regarding proposed, pending or current litigation’. This boilerplate recitation does not comply with the intent of the statute... As another example, the language of the so-called “personnel” exception, §105(1)(f) of the Open Meetings Law, is limited and precise. It has been advised that a motion involving §105(1)(f) should be based on its specific language.  For instance, a proper motion might be:  “I move to enter into an executive session to discuss the employment history of a particular person (or persons)”.  Such a motion would not in our opinion have to identify the person or persons who may be the subject of a discussion.  By means of the kind of motion suggested above, members of a public body and others in attendance would have the ability to know that there is a proper basis for entry into an executive session.

Although this does not mandate that the individual in question be identified by name, it does require that any motion to enter into executive session describe with some detail the nature of the proposed discussion (see, State Comm on Open Govt Adv Opn dated Apr. 6, 1993), and we reject respondents' assertion that the Board's reference to a 'personnel issue' is the functional equivalent of identifying 'a particular person'" [Gordon v. Village of Monticello, 620 NY 2d 573, 575; 207 AD 2d 55 (1994)].

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