Maryland's open-meetings compliance board is back at work.
Gov. Larry Hogan has filled the three positions on the board — three months after it was unable to address a complaint against the Housing Authority of Prince George's County. The problem: The former members' positions went vacant because they weren't confirmed by the Maryland Senate by the end of the legislative session.
Jonathan A. Hodgson, Rachel A. Shapiro and April Caso Ishak, all private attorneys, now constitute the board, which has the power to issue citations to public agencies that are found to be in violation of state open-meetings law.
Hodgson, the board's chairman and a consultant who served as attorney for both Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, has practiced law for 35 years and is the sole lawyer at his eponymous Annapolis firm. He said he told the governor he'd be willing to serve in any needed capacity.
The compliance board, by nature, pushes for government transparency, but otherwise, Hodgson said, he isn't coming into the role "looking for issues."
"The function of this board is not to go around and look for ways to educate [people on the topic]," he said. "We simply decide the merits, or lack thereof, of complaints."
Shapiro is an attorney at Miles & Stockbridge in Rockville, where she practices general civil, business and commercial law, according to her biography on the firm's website. She previously served as a clerk to Judge Susan K. Gauvey of the U.S. District Court for Maryland and to Judge James R. Eyler of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
Ishak, of Harford County, works for Stark & Keenan, where she is a civil litigator and provides estate and business legal counseling, according to that firm's website.
Neither Shapiro nor Ishak could be reached for comment.
The board, which is part of the state attorney general's office, handles about 25 to 30 complaints a year, Hodgson said.
Open-meetings issues tend to arise in smaller, more rural towns and municipalities, he said, despite a "false impression that most come from Baltimore or the more populated areas."
The previous board had issued two citations against the Prince George's Housing Authority in December before being unable to address the May complaint.
Maryland Legal Aid had alleged that the housing authority violated state open-meetings law by holding an April 6 meeting without giving public notice and by meeting in closed session on the same day.
On May 5, Assistant Attorney General Ann MacNeille, counsel to the compliance board, informally alerted Housing Authority officials about the matter. Her letter stated that once the governor appointed at least two members to the board, she would seek a formal response from the housing authority.