MarylandReporter.com editor Len Lazarik characterizes the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board as having “no bite” in an October 16 commentary. He argues that the Board, which handles complaints about alleged State and local government violations of Maryland’s Open Meetings Act, should have greater authority to penalize violators and that a review of the Board’s power is needed.
The problem lies with some fundamental flaws that have existed in Maryland’s Open Meetings Act for decades. I am keenly aware of these flaws because as managing editor of Patuxent Publishing in 1990, I and two other editors served on a legislative task force that rewrote the act.
After much wrangling with the associations representing county and municipal officials and boards of education, who thought our proposals went too far, the legislature finally passed a compromise bill, and Gov. William Donald Schaefer signed it. We made a lot of improvements to the law, narrowing exceptions and in particular closing a huge loophole that allowed a public body to close a meeting if they thought it was in the “public interest.” …
But more than 20 years after its last major revision, it’s time for a complete review of the Open Meetings Act and its effectiveness at keeping the public’s business public. The compliance board needs to be revitalized and given more power and a budget.