The Soapbox and Toolbox for New York State's Nonprofits

March 9, 2014

A Member Asks: Elected Officials on Boards

A Member Asks… “We recently heard that if we have an elected official on our board that we are subject to Freedom of Information Act rules. Is this true? “

NYCON Answers: A nonprofit is only subject to sunshine laws in rare exceptions where it’s serving as a "state actor," which means it provides services to the public as if it were the government or operates under the express direction of government.

    •    Libraries are subject to FOIA by statute. 
    •    Cornell Cooperative Extensions are subject as a consequence of their affiliation with the four public colleges that comprise part of the otherwise private Cornell University.
    •    Some nonprofits with offices located on state property, often parks, are also subject.

Again, simply having elected officials on your board doesn't obligate you to abide by sunshine laws, even if it's a substantial number (like CAP agencies) or the entire board.  As an example, the SUNY and CUNY Research Foundations, which are nonprofits that couldn't be more closely tied to government, consider themselves to be exempt from sunshine law requirements.

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