New Open Meetings Act Manual Released

The Open Meetings Compliance Board  met on October 21  and unveiled the 7th Edition of its Open Meetings Act Manual.  The Manual is designed to help public bodies and members of the public understand and comply with the State’s Open Meetings Act.  The Manual was last revised in 2006 and the 7th edition incorporates new Board opinions and judicial case holdings made since then.

The Board also approved its 18th annual report, which discusses activities of the Board and makes recommendations concerning legislation.  From July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010, the Board received 23 complaints – 11  from citizens, 11 from the news media, and one from a government official.  The State, counties, and municipalities were the subject of seven complaints each, with the final two focusing on local school boards.  Given the large number of public meetings that occur every year, the Board believes the numbers reflect an overall compliance with the Act.  The report credits the education activities of MACo and the Maryland Municipal League, the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance, and the Office of the Attorney General in keeping public officials informed.

The Board also decided to reintroduce the amended version of HB 211 from the 2010 Session.  As amended, HB 211 would have placed a one-year statute of limitations on open meetings complaints and required public bodies to post meeting notices on a website that is regularly used by the public body and at a physical location accessible to the general public (i.e., a bulletin board).  A public body may also give meeting notice by any other method the body deems appropriate, including by delivery to representatives of the news media.   HB 211 passed the House but ran out of time in the Senate.  MACo supported last year’s amended bill.

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