3:00 PM EDT, May 21, 2013
Due to my observance of a religious holiday at the time that Alison Knezevich reported on the Open Meetings Compliance Board's ruling on Baltimore County's approval of the so-called "rain tax" ("Board says Baltimore county gave proper notice of meeting," May 17), I was not able to give her my response. I want to commend Ms. Knezevich for calling me the next day after the article was printed. Ms. Knezevich is very conscientious and is a real asset to The Baltimore Sun.
Since I couldn't make my comments in the article, I would like to share them with your readers now.
The very fact that the Open Meetings Compliance Board met in closed session to issue this ruling reveals the hypocrisy of the board. Denying me the opportunity to testify at their closed session exemplifies their know-it-all attitude. One would think that this board should be the role model for open government, but they are just as arrogant in their decision making process as are the governing agencies that they are supposed to oversee when it comes to open government.
Furthermore, the fact that only four people from the entire Baltimore County population testified about the rain tax proposal at the so-called Baltimore County Council work session on April 9th speaks volumes as to whether the people really knew about this purported open meeting.
Furthermore, even if the board had issued a different decision, I'm not sure it would have had a serious impact on the Baltimore County Council. For example look what happened when Craig O'Donnell and I filed complaints against the Board of Regents of the University of Maryland . Even though the Compliance Board ruled in our favor, stating that the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland violated the Open Meetings Act when they made the decision to move to the Big Ten Athletic Conference, the regents were not required to meet and vote again on the proposed switch to the Big Ten in open session.
So what we learn is the Open Meeting Compliance Board has no power to punish any government agency when they violate the Open Meetings Act. The truth is the Open Meetings Act is insignificant. What's more, what we have here are the General Assembly and the governor giving the impression they are doing everything they can to have open government when in actuality they are doing virtually nothing to increase government accountability. This is classic government by deception.
With little if any regard for the people they serve, the Baltimore County Council members do what they please and pass another burden on the taxpayers of Baltimore County. Suffice it to say the citizens are the ones who suffer. It's just another example of our government in action. But guess who's really at fault here? Sorry to say, the citizens of the state of Maryland are because they continue to re-elect career-oriented, power-seeking politicians. When are we going to get smart and vote all of the incumbents out of office?
Ralph Jaffe, Baltimore
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