Student at state university in N.Y. plans open-meetings lawsuit

NEW YORK — A student at the State University of NewYork at Albany is considering suing the university-affiliatedAuxiliary Services Corporation after being denied access to multiplemeetings of its board.

In December, Tony Gray received a favorable opinion from thestate’s Committee on Open Government, which determined the boardof the Auxiliary Services Corporation is a public agency thatmust comply with state laws governing open records and open meetings.The Auxiliary Services Corporation is a nonprofit company thatruns the university’s food service, bookstore and similar operations.

"In view of the degree of governmental control exercisedby and its nexus with the University of Albany, I believe that[the board] conducts public business and performs a governmentalfunction of a governmental entity," wrote Robert Freeman,executive director of the Committee on Open Government, in a non-bindingopinion.

Gray said board members have asked him to leave all the meetingshe has tried to attend. It was his dismissal at a meeting in February2001, though, that sparked his intent to file a lawsuit to challengethe board’s actions.

At the February meeting, the board approved a 6.95 percentincrease in the campus meal plan. Gray attended the meeting toargue against the proposal, but the deliberations were closedto the public. By filing a lawsuit, Gray would seek to nullifythe board’s vote on the meal plan and attempt to gain access tofuture proceedings.

In his letter to Gray, Freeman addressed the disputed Februarymeeting. "One of the actions to which you referred, increasingthe cost of the meal plan, involves the assertion of authoritythat could be exercised only by or on behalf of the University,"he wrote.

Gray said he took Freeman’s opinion to the board’s Decembermeeting and was given five minutes to address the group. The board– consisting of 11 faculty and staff members, eight students andone alumnus — asked no questions of him, and when he was finished,instructed him to leave.

Gray said he hopes to file his lawsuit later this month withthe help of pro bono counsel.

Read about Tony Gray‘s past struggles with the State University of New York at Albany and Hudson Valley Community College.