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Failure To Comply With Open Meetings Law Held Mere Negligence Not Requiring Remand

An appellate court held that a zoning board’s failure to comply with the “precise requirements” of the open meetings law did not rise to a level which required that the matter be remanded for further action in public. In Matter of Cunney v. Board of Trustees of the Village of Grand View the lower court had found that the conditions imposed on the granting of an area variance were reasonable but that the zoning board had failed to comply with the open meetings law when it did not take its vote in public. Therefore the lower court found that the matter had to be remanded for “a formal decision in open session.”

The Appellate Division reversed that portion of the judgment remanding the matter. While it agreed that “the ZBA violated the Open Meetings Law by failing to vote on the application in public session” the court went on to state that an action should only be voided for such a violation upon “good cause shown.” The court held that the petitioner had failed to show good cause and anyway the violation was “mere negligence.” The decision does not explain why the court determined this violation was negligence. However, it would appear that the court likely felt, since the conditions were found to be reasonable, that there was not much purpose in sending the matter back just to go through the formality of voting in public..

-Steven Silverberg

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