Q: I was attending a meeting of my local Zoning Board, and the Board members left the room to have a private discussion about the case they were hearing. Aren’t Zoning Board meetings supposed to be public meetings?
A: According to the New York Open Meetings Law, meetings of public bodies are required to be held in a location and under circumstances where the proceedings can be seen and heard by the public. (Whether or not the public can speak is another issue, to be discussed at another time.)
However, there are certain instances in which a public body can meet in executive session, and exclude some or all persons other than members of the public body from being present.
Some of the most common subjects which can be discussed in executive session are obtaining legal advice; discussing pending or prospective litigation, or collective bargaining matters, or matters which relate to hiring, firing or discipline of a public officer or employee. Most of these are unlikely to apply in the case of a Zoning Board.