Volume 6 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 125
Board of assessment review (hearings; meetings) (Open Meetings Law); Open Meetings Law (board of assessment review) (hearings; meetings) - Public Officers Law, § 103; Real Property Tax Law, § 1524:
The hearings of a board of assessment review are subject to the provisions of the Open Meetings Law (Public Officers Law, Art. 7), but the meeting at which the board deliberates the complaints brought before it are quasi-judicial proceedings and therefore not subject to that law.
We have been asked whether the hearings and meetings of the board of assessment review (Real Property Tax Law, § 1524) are subject to the provisions of the Open Meetings Law (Public Officers Law, Art. 7).
It is clear that a city or town board of assessment review is a “public body” within the meaning of subdivision 2 of section 97 of the Public Officers Law. That is, a board of assessment review is an entity which consists of more than 2 members, requires a quorum to transact public business, and performs a governmental function for a city or town. The meetings of a board of assessment review come within the definition of “meeting” in subdivision 1 of section 97 of the Public Officers Law (i.e., an official convening of a public body to conduct public business).
Pursuant to section 98 (a) of that law, every meeting of a public body must be open to the general public, except executive sessions called and conducted in accordance with the provisions of section 100 of the law. We conclude, therefore, that the hearings of the board of assessment review are subject to the Open Meetings Law.
Despite the foregoing, it is our opinion that once the board of assessment review has concluded its hearings pursuant to sections 512 and 1524 of the Real Property Tax Law, the meeting or meetings at which the board of assessment review makes its determinations as to the complaints presented to it are not open meetings (see, 5 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 75 regarding assessor’s attendance at hearings and meetings of the board of assessment review). Rather, these decisional meetings of the board of assessment review are “quasi-judicial proceedings” within the meaning of subdivision 1 of section 103 of the Public Officers Law, and that section specifically provides that the Open Meetings Law does not extend to quasi-judicial proceedings.
Our conclusion is based in part on the case of 700 Shore Road Associates v. Board of Assessment Review, County of Nassau, 70 Misc.2d 822, 335 N.Y.S.2d 114, wherein the court stated, “In essence, the board of assessment review is quasi-judicial and is charged with the responsibility of finding the facts, applying the laws and coming to a fair judgment” (335 N.Y.S.2d at 117). While this case was admittedly decided prior to the enactment of the Open Meetings Law (L.1976, c.511), we believe Justice Hogan’s comment is well taken.
Similarly, in Orange County Publications v. Council of City of Newburgh, 60 A.D.2d 409, 401 N.Y.S.2d 84, aff’d, 45 N.Y.2d 947, 383 N.E.2d 1157, 411 N.Y.S.2d 564, the Appellate Division held that the deliberations of the zoning board of appeals were not subject to the Open Meetings Law, stating :
[T]here is a distinction between that portion of a meeting of the zoning board wherein the members collectively weigh evidence taken during a public hearing, apply the law and reach a conclusion and that part of its proceedings in which its decision is announced, the vote of its members taken and all of its regular business is conducted. (401 N.Y.S.2d at 90)
Accordingly, it is our opinion that the meeting(s) of the board of assessment review at which the members deliberate and conclude as to the assessment complaints brought before the board is quasi-judicial and not subject to the Open Meetings Law.
August 18, 1978
Revised July 1, 1980