Niagara Gazette —
The paragraph reads: “If indeed the sole purpose of a gathering is social in nature, the open meetings law, in my view, would not apply. However, if during the social gatherings, a majority of the members of a public body begin to discuss the business of that body, collectively as a group, I believe that they should recognize that they are conducting public business without notice to the public and immediately cease their discussion of public business. Moreover, in that situation, I would conjecture that a court would determine that the public body would have acted in a manner inconsistent with law.”
In addition to Fruscione and Johnson, the dinner sessions have been attended on a regular basis since April by Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian and council members Charles Walker and Robert Anderson Jr. as well as Assistant Corporation Counsel Tom O’Donnell. Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti stopped attending the dinners after the discretionary freeze was imposed in April.
The city council has been meeting for meals between sessions for decades, according to Fruscione.
“I think that the public knows,” he said. “It’s been going on for at least 50 years in city hall.”
Fruscione agreed with Johnson’s position that city attorneys are invited to the meetings to ensure that the council is acting appropriately.
Anderson, who has been on the city council for almost a decade, said he has always gone to the meals and has always thought them to be within the limits of open meetings laws, being that city attorneys attend as well.
“The bottom line is I’ve just been following suit,” Anderson said. “It’s been going on forever.”
The open meetings law has not been discussed in regard to the council’s dinners during the four years that Johnson has been the city attorney and he has not been made aware of any problems with prior councils meeting for meals between sessions, he said.
“As far as I know, it has never been an issue,” Johnson said.
Spending series This is the final story in the Gazette's four-part look at the spending habits of top city officials. View the entire series on our website, www.niagara-gazette.com.