Bill Would Require Meeting Records To Be Saved For Five Years

A January 5, 2016, Capital Gazette article reported Maryland Senator Ed Reilly has submitted legislation (SB 17) for the 2016 Session that would require public bodies to keep any written and audio/video records of their meetings for at least five years. Currently, under the state’s Open Meetings Act, such records must be maintained for at least one year. From the article:

Reilly said he became concerned local boards could destroy records after short durations. Increasing the mandatory minimum amount of time for record-keeping just seems like “good government,” he said.

Government transparency advocates are glad to see an effort to extend the shelf life of records. Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, said Reilly’s bill offers “an important change.”

“If you think about zoning decisions,” she said, giving an example of how expansion of the requirement could be useful, “citizens don’t even know until two or three years later sometimes.”

The article stated that Reilly became concerned about the issue when a constituent expressed concern about how long the Anne Arundel County school board kept its meeting recordings and emails. However, school spokesman Bob Mosier contested the concerns:

[Mosier]believes confusion over how long emails are preserved has to do with a practice for handling deleted emails; public school officials’ deleted emails are backed up on tape nightly for a 30-day period, he said. As far as meeting records go, he said, the school boards’ archives [already] go back further than five years.

The article also noted that Common Cause will also be supporting efforts to require more training for officials on open meetings requirements and make agendas available in advance of meetings.