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Buffalo school board apparently violates Open Meetings Law

The Buffalo School Board apparently violated the state’s Open Meetings Law when it held a two-hour budget meeting Monday morning without providing notice to the public.

Six board members met at 8:30 a.m. in the Emerson School of Hospitality with Superintendent Pamela Brown and a number of her administrators for an informal work session on the 2014-15 budget. The district is currently facing a $50 million deficit.

Board members in attendance included Sharon Belton-Cottman, John Licata, Jason McCarthy, Barbara Nevergold, Carl Paladino and James Sampson. Board members later said they discussed some potential budget reductions, among other things, but the discussion was preliminary.

Though no action was taken at Monday’s meeting, the law requires that the public be alerted when a majority of publicly-elected officials meet. No media notice was sent out regarding the meeting and nothing was posted on the district’s web site.

Spokeswoman Elena Cala said she believed Belton-Cottman, chairwoman of the board’s Finance and Operations Committee, handed out paper notices at last Wednesday’s board meeting regarding Monday’s session. However, it does not appear that these notices were circulated to the media.

Board President Barbara Nevergold said in a prepared statement, “Today’s gathering was an informational workshop presented by administrative staff in order to provide the board members present with critical information and background on issues that will impact District operations through budgeting. In this way, board members will make educated and responsible decisions as the budget is formed for the upcoming school year.”

Her statement did not address the question of the state’s Open Meetings Law.