Open Meetings Compliance Board Holds 2014 Annual Meeting, Considers Legislative Initiatives

The Open Meetings Compliance Board (OMCB) held its annual 2014 meeting on August 20.  At the meeting OMCB reviewed its draft twenty-second annual report and considered potential 2015 legislative initiatives or areas of study.  OMCB is charged with enforcing Maryland’s Open Meetings Act, which applies to both state and local governmental entities.

For the first time since 1992 the Board consists of all new members:

  1. Monica J. Johnson, Esq. (Chair)
  2. Wanda Martinez, Esq. (Board Member)
  3. Mamata S. Poch, Esq. (Board Member)

Assistant Attorney General Ann MacNeille serves as OMCB’s primary legal counsel.  MacNeille reported that OMCB received 32 complaints in FY 2014 and that the Board was seeing an increase in basic violations that had not been seen in the past but could not offer an explanation as to why this was the case.

The Board members also considered five suggested legislative changes or areas of study submitted by the public:

  1. Addressing the use of text messaging and social media to discuss public business: After a significant discussion, the Board decided that further study was needed before proposing any legislation in this complex and evolving area.
  2. Expanding the open meetings training requirement for public bodies to include the presiding officers of the body: As the training requirement does not take effect until October, 2014, the Board felt that legislation to expand the requirement was premature.  However, the Board will review the designees selected by each public body to receive the training and assess whether a future change may be warranted.
  3. Requiring public bodies to give notice when they have unsealed minutes of closed meetings: The Board expressed interest in this topic but wanted to consult with local governments over potential implementation issues before making a formal proposal.
  4. Requiring public bodies to automatically unseal closed meeting minutes on topics other than investment of public monies and bond issuances: The Board rejected this proposal due to lack of specificity and concern over unintentionally exposing confidential personnel information.
  5. Requiring public bodies to provide agendas with their notices: The Board decided against taking a separate position on this issue and will wait to see if related legislation considered by the Maryland General Assembly in 2014 is reintroduced in the 2015 Session.

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp attended the meeting, along with a representative from MML.  They explained the open meetings training provided through the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance and offered their opinions on the proposed legislative initiatives.

OMCB Contact Information

Open Meetings Compliance Board
Office of the Attorney General
200 Saint Paul Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
E-mail: opengov@oag.state.md.us
Phone: 410.576.6327

 

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