The Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board (OMCB) held its 2017 annual meeting on August 3 in Annapolis and considered both potential legislation and training issues. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp attended and offered comments, as did representatives from the Maryland Municipal League (MML), Dorchester County, and a private Anne Arundel County law firm.
The 3-member volunteer board consists of former Anne Arundel County Attorney Jonathan Hodgson, attorney Rachel Shapiro Grasmick, and attorney April C. Ishak. Hodgson chairs the board. OMCB receives and reviews alleged violations of Maryland’s Open Meetings Act.
OMCB discussed the following issues:
- Review and approval of several reports required by 2o17 legislation (HB 880/SB 450) including the tracking and recording of new training requirements under the Act. OMCB’s report examined a variety of ways the training data could be maintained and ultimately recommended that having each public body keep its own records regarding training was the most practical and cost-effective solution. OMCB also approved a recommendation to work with MACo, MML, and the Maryland Association of Boards of Education to distribute open meetings information on behalf of OMCB. The organizations will also provide OMCB with specific email lists to better target information distribution. a
- Review and approval of OMCB’s 25th annual report. The report noted that between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, OMCB received 32 complaints regarding 26 public bodies, with one complainant submitting 9 complaints. There were also 6 docketed compaints remaining from the prior fiscal year for a total of 38 complaints. OMCB issued 27 opinions, finding violations of varying seriousness in 18 opinions.
- Consideration of potential legislation for the 2018 Session. OMCB decided not to introduce any legislative proposals for the 2018 Session. However, the board members did discuss processes to ensure they were consulted on legislation affecting the Act or the Board and to take a default position of oppose to any relevant legislation they had not had a chance to review. The OMCB also discussed the evidentiary challenges and enforcement usefulness of addressing complaints filed more than one year after the alleged violation, or where the public body no longer exists or its members are completely different.
Knapp commented that MACo supported the OMCB recommendations and actions, as did the other attending outside representatives.