During the 2017 Session, the Maryland General Assembly passed and Governor Larry Hogan signed into law new Open Meetings Act training requirements for public bodies (HB 880 / SB 450). Public bodies have until October 1, 2017, to comply with the new training requirements. Here are the five things you need to know to be in compliance:
(1) At least one member of each public body must take a training class on the Open Meetings Act. Under current law, each public body must designate at least one individual who is an employee, officer, or member to take the training class. While employees or staff can continue to take the training class, after October 1, 2017, at least one member of the public body must be also designated to take the class. The designated member has 90 days after the designation to take the class.
(2) Training classes can be taken through four different designated sources. The law identifies four designated sources where the training may be taken: (1) an online class offered by the Office of Attorney General and the University of Maryland’s Institute for Governmental Service and Research; (2) a class offered by MACo through the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance; (3) a class offered by the Maryland Municipal League (MML) through the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance; and (4) a class offered by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) through the Boardmanship Academy Program. If a designated member had previously taken the training from one of the listed sources on or after October 1, 2013, the member DOES NOT have to take the training again. However, if a designated member had previously taken the training before October 1, 2013, the member must retake the training from one of the listed sources.
(3) Public bodies that have not designated a member to take a class may not meet in closed session after October 1, 2017. If a public body has not designated a member to take the class by October 1, 2017, the public body loses the ability to go into closed session. The member only needs to be designated by October 1 and may take the class at a later date as long as it falls within the 90 days after being designated.
(4) When going into closed session, a public body must either: (1) have a least one member designated to take the training class present; or (2) follow and complete the Compliance Checklist for Meetings Subject to the Open Meetings Act. After October 1, 2017, a public body can only enter closed session if it meets one of two requirements – either at least one member who has been designated to take the training class is present or the public body follows and completes the Compliance Checklist for Meetings Subject to the Open Meetings Act developed by the Office of the Attorney General. If the checklist option is used, the checklist must be included in the public body’s meeting minutes.
(5) Public bodies under the Maryland Judiciary are exempt from the training and closed session meeting requirements. Due to the unique nature of public bodies under the Maryland Judiciary, the new training requirements do not apply to public bodies that are: (1) under the judicial branch of State government; or (2) subject to governance by rules adopted by the Court of Appeals.
MACo and MML are offering an Open Meetings course through the Academy for Excellence in Local Governance on September 12 from 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM in Gaithersburg, MD. More information here.
If you have any questions regarding the new Open Meetings Act requirements, please contact MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp at 410.269.0043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.