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Committee on Open Government

The Committee on Open Government is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Freedom of Information Law (Public Officers Law, sections 84-90) and the Open Meetings Law (Public Officers Law, sections 100-111). The Freedom of Information Law governs rights of access to government records, while the Open Meetings Law concerns the conduct of meetings of public bodies and the right to attend those meetings. The committee also administers the Personal Privacy Protection Law.
The committee is composed of 11 members, 5 from government and 6 from the public. The five government members are the Lieutenant Governor, the Secretary of State, whose office acts as secretariat for the committee, the Commissioner of General Services, the Director of the Budget, and one elected local government official appointed by the Governor. Of the six public members, at least two must be or have been representatives of the news media.

The Freedom of Information Law directs the committee to furnish advice to agencies, the public and the news media, issue regulations and report its observations and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature annually. Similarly, under the Open Meetings Law, the committee issues advisory opinions, reviews the operation of the law and reports its findings and recommendations annually to the Legislature.

When questions arise under either the Freedom of Information Law or the Open Meetings Law, the committee can provide written or oral advice and attempt to resolve controversies in which rights may be unclear. Since its creation in 1974, nearly 20,000 written advisory opinions have been prepared by the committee at the request of government, the public and the news media. In addition, several thousand oral opinions have been provided by telephone.

If you need advice regarding either the Freedom of Information Law or the Open Meetings Law, feel free to write to:

Committee on Open Government
NYS Department of State
One Commerce Plaza
99 Washington Ave
Albany, NY 12231
or call (518) 474-2518
Fax (518) 474-1927

In addition, the opinions prepared since early 1993 that have educational or precedential value are identified by means of a series of key phrases in separate indices created in relation to the Freedom of Information Law and the Open Meetings Law. The full text of those opinions is now available through the Department of State’s website. To gain direct access to the text of the opinions and open government statutes, you can search by going to the Committee on Open Government website.

Each index to advisory opinions will be updated periodically to ensure that interested persons and government agencies will have the ability to obtain opinions recently rendered.

In addition to advisory opinions and the indices to opinions, the website also includes:

  • the text of the Freedom of Information, Open Meetings and Personal Privacy Protection laws;
  • the rules and regulations promulgated by the committee (21 NYCRR Part 1401);
  • Your right to know, this guide to the Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Laws;
  • You should know, which describes the Personal Privacy Protection Law;
  • sample request for records made via e-mail;
  • responses to “FAQs” (frequently asked questions);
  • Food for Thought, issues relating to e-mail; and
  • Annual Report to the Governor and the State Legislature.