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Baltimore County school board did not violate open meetings rules when discussing chair votes

The Board of Education of Baltimore County did not violate the Maryland Open Meetings Act during a December meeting that started late and then abruptly went into closed session, according to a ruling of the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board.

The board on Dec. 3 started its regular meeting late because it had been meeting in closed session. After opening the meeting to the public, the board quickly moved again into an administrative session because it was deliberating the selection of a new board chair.

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A school system parent filed a complaint alleging that the late start and sudden move into a closed session violated Maryland’s open meeting requirements.

In both these cases, the compliance board determined in a Feb. 3 letter that the school board acted appropriately.

Because the school board’s staff told the public the meeting was delayed and would still happen, the board gave “adequate” notice under the act.

“Had the County Board not communicated to the members of the public in attendance that the meeting was delayed but would occur, and had the County Board then convened two hours late, there might be a close question as to whether the County Board met without proper notice. In that case, the public could have been expected to assume that the meeting had been canceled and leave,” the compliance board wrote.

The compliance board ruled the school board did not violate the act when it quickly moved into a closed session because the board was considering an “administrative function” in electing a new chair and vice chair.

Kathleen Causey would ultimately be designated the board chair for the new year, a position she held last year. Board member Cheryl E. Pasteur challenged Causey for the chair position and obtained six votes to Causey’s five; however, neither woman gained the seven votes necessary for a motion to pass.

Citing Maryland common law, the board’s attorney said Causey, who had previously been elected unanimously, would retain her position.

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