IDA found to have violated Open Meetings Act for the past two years, to change practices

The Carroll County Industrial Development Authority has violated the Open Meetings Act in a number of ways over the past two years, according to an opinion written by the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board.

The authority, according to it articles of incorporation, was created “to secure new industries for Carroll County by purchasing, erecting, leasing, mortgaging, selling, renovating, repairing and improving land and buildings, or any interest therein, suitable for industrial purposes, in order to promote the growth and expansion of the industries established in Carroll County,” and has five commissioner-appointed members.


The board issued the opinion on July 17 this year, stating that the IDA closed meetings without an OMA-trained board member present; failed to provide topics to be discussed in closed meetings and its reasons for excluding the public; and generally failed to post sufficiently detailed minutes after the closed meeting so the topics of discussion could be discerned, and also failed to disclose those minutes at meetings following closed sessions.

Craig O’Donnell, a self-described “government transparency advocate,” filed the complaint with the compliance board.


The Board of County Commissioners was found to have violated of the Open Meetings Act on a handful of dates, Carroll County Attorney Tim Burke informed the board this week.

The IDA violated the OMA by closing its meetings “without the presiding officer’s preparation of a written statement that disclosed the topics to be discussed, the reasons for closing the meeting, and the statutory authority for meeting in closed session,” the opinion states. “The response produces the written closing statements, which, apparently by mistake, were not provided to the complainant when he requested them.

“We find that they do not comply with [a provision of the act] because they do not state the members’ reasons for excluding the public from the particular discussion, and, as acknowledged by counsel, did not always cite the correct statutory exception,” it states.

“Also, we note that IDA often merely used the words of the statutory exception to describe the topic to be discussed. That practice rarely meets the … requirement that the closing statement convey both the statutory exception and information about the particular topic that the public body claims falls within the exception.”

The opinion states that the IDA told the Open Meetings Compliance Board it would review its closed-meeting practices.

O’Donnell also alleged in his complaint that the IDA violated a provision of the OMA by failing to summarize the events of each closed session in the minutes of its next open session.

“The response concedes, and we find, that IDA violated [the provision],” the opinion states. “IDA states that it has taken action to comply with the requirement.”

The IDA discussed at its most recent meeting the measures it is taking to comply with the Open Meetings Act — including that Secretary Frank Dertzbaugh has undergone OMA training and the approval of a new website so the IDA does not need to rely on county staff to post information from its meetings.

“They wanted the minutes posted,” said Sue Chambers, chair of the IDA, last week. “Other [violations] were more procedural. We didn’t say we closed the meeting for ‘X’ reason.

“It wasn’t that we did anything unethical,” she said, “it’s just we are all volunteers.”

Relying on the county to post information from meetings was “cumbersome,” Chambers said, and the new website should solve the issues.

“There was no intent to circumvent the open meetings law, and every intent to comply with it,” said Isaac Menasche, attorney for the IDA.

The Times has requested the minutes in question and is awaiting about 18 months worth of closing statements and summaries of closed meetings.

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