Three members of an anti-speed camera group have filed an open-meetings complaint against a task force appointed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to study Baltimore's troubled automated enforcement system.
The complaint, filed April 1, alleges seven violations of the state Open Meetings Act. Several stem from a closed-door session March 20, at which task force members were briefed by the city's new vendor, Brekford Corp., inside the company's Anne Arundel County headquarters.
The head of the task force, Transportation Department lobbyist Barbara Zektick, referred questions about the complaint to an agency spokeswoman, who declined to comment.
The law requires public boards to advertise their meetings. Before convening privately, they must cite a legal reason and then vote to close the meeting. Complaints are reviewed by the Open Meetings Compliance Board, a three-member panel independent of the state attorney general's office. The board has no power to punish violators.
Lead complainant Louis Wilen, an Olney resident who is a member of the Maryland Drivers Alliance, said in an interview that it was "inappropriate" for the task force to meet privately at Brekford.
"If the speed cameras are really reliable and accurate, then there should be no reason for any secrecy," he said. "If everything is calibrated and reliable, there should be nothing to hide."
Wilen likened the task force to a school board that must make its summer retreats open to the public. The complaint claims the task force is a public body subject to the act because it was created by the mayor, the city's chief executive.
The complaint alleges that the task force has failed to provide written notice of its meetings, which began last October. The eight-member group has met about a half-dozen times.
The March 20 meeting began downtown at the Department of Transportation and was open to the public. It then moved to Brekford. Members of the news media, including two Baltimore Sun journalists, were prevented from entering by a company official who said it is a "secure facility."
Five task force members or their representatives attended the private session at Brekford. Afterward, member Ragina Averella, public and government affairs manager at AAA Mid-Atlantic, called it "unfortunate" that journalists were barred. She confirmed that Brekford officials gave a detailed briefing on their Baltimore program, which the company began ramping up Jan. 1.
The task force has 30 days to respond to the complaint. After receiving the response, the board has 30 days to rule.