Open-meetings violations noted


The county Planning Board has violated the state Open Meetings Act by not keeping minutes during a premeeting on construction of a 22-story building in downtown Columbia, according to an opinion by the state's Open Meetings Compliance Board.

Del. Elizabeth Bobo wrote a complaint to the compliance board after learning that the Planning Board did not prepare written minutes during a meeting in December that preceded a meeting on the proposed retail and apartment building along Little Patuxent Parkway.

"Particularly at a time when we're dealing with [downtown] development - hundreds of millions, if not in the billion-dollar area, of profit are at stake - these meetings have to comply with the open-meetings law," Bobo said.

Bobo's husband, Lloyd Knowles, attended the Dec. 21 Planning Board meeting and was unaware of the premeeting. He wrote to Marsha S. McLaughlin, director of the county's Department of Planning and Zoning, to request the minutes.

In a Dec. 29 letter, McLaughlin responded that the Planning Board does not take minutes for a premeeting because "typically it is held so the Board can discuss procedural issues, or ask staff to bring supplemental items to the meeting."

McLaughlin added that the Planning Board did not discuss the construction request. However, Bobo's complaint pointed out that a Planning Board member said publicly that during the premeeting session the board decided it would not accept a motion by Knowles, according to the Open Meetings Compliance Board's opinion

The compliance board ruled June 15 that when the Planning Board's meetings are subject to the Open Meetings Act, minutes must be kept.

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