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Wait a minute, where are the public comments?

PINE PLAINS — During the public comments segment of the Pine Plains Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 24, Craig Yerger, a local resident, questioned the board about the contents of the board minutes.Yerger, who has spoken during the public comments segment of previous board meetings, held up a copy of the board’s minutes and said the document did not thoroughly or accurately describe the “thoughtful comments” he presented to the board during the Wednesday, July 6, meeting.The minutes noted that “a member of the audience” had commented on a specific topic and that discussion followed, but there was no summary of the discussion.Yerger said the omission of the full discussion during public comments “demonstrates disregard for [the board’s] duties” to the students and the public.The Committee on Open Government is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Open Meetings Law (New York State Public Officers Law), which, according to the committee’s website, deals with “the conduct of meetings on public bodies and the right to attend those meetings.” The law also lists what is required to be included in the board minutes.Robert Freeman, the executive director of the committee, said that the Open Meetings Law requires that board minutes contain a record of all motions, proposals, resolutions and other matters that are formally voted upon and the results of all votes. The law does not require boards to include what is noted during the public comments.Pine Plains Superintendent Linda Kaumeyer said that it is the district’s responsibility to prepare the minutes for each meeting and to include accurate descriptions of the actions and votes that occur during the meetings, but she noted that minutes are not designed to be a verbatim transcript.Kaumeyer said that she goes further than the legal requirements by writing Superintendent’s Reflections for each meeting to further discuss topics from the meeting and to answer questions that were brought up during the meetings.The Superintendent’s Reflections can be found on the school website, www.ppcsd.org.Yerger said that he views the minutes as a document that educates the public about the board’s actions and he believes that the minutes are a safeguard for education at the local level.He said the limited inclusion of public comment discussions is misleading.The school district does not record the meetings, but Freeman said that anyone is legally allowed to record the meetings as long as the recording device is not intrusive or disruptive.

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