xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Without members, open meetings board can't meet

Five months after Maryland's open-meetings compliance board ruled that the Housing Authority of Prince George's County violated open-meetings law, the public housing agency has been accused again of holding an illegal gathering.

But the compliance board that issued two citations against the housing authority in December is unable to address the new complaint filed by Maryland Legal Aid.

Advertisement

Why? Because the board has no members.

That's right: The open-meetings compliance board is unable to hold its own meetings because it has no members.

Advertisement
Advertisement

The three members who had been on the board since former Gov. Martin O'Malley appointed them last summer did not have their positions confirmed by the Maryland Senate this year. So when the legislative session ended, so did their short stints on the board, which is housed in the attorney general's office.

Gov. Larry Hogan has not appointed any new members but is the process of vetting candidates.

"We are aware of the vacancies and are actively recruiting to fill them," said Hogan spokesman Douglass Mayer.

The lapse worries Sabrina B. Wear, supervising attorney for Maryland Legal Aid.

Advertisement

"Basically, we have a local agency (HAPGC) that continues to violate Maryland's open meetings laws," Wear said in an email. "Now it appears the state's Open Meetings Compliance Board is not staffed so there is no oversight or state agency to address complaints to.

"Legal Aid is troubled by this development, as open government is an important issue for Marylanders," she added.

Wear alleged in a complaint filed last month that the housing authority violated state open-meetings law by holding an April 6 meeting without providing public notice and by meeting in closed session on the same day. Wear asked the compliance board to "issue an advisory opinion that the Housing Authority of Prince George's County violated the Open Meetings Act," the complaint states.

The housing authority has not responded to the complaint. On May 5, Assistant Attorney General Ann MacNeille, counsel to the compliance board, wrote to housing authority officials to informally alert them about the complaint. Her letter states that the housing officials typically would have 30 days to respond to formal notice of a complaint.

"At this moment, however, there are no members of the Compliance Board," MacNeille wrote. "I do not know when new members will be appointed.

"As soon as the Governor has appointed at least two members," the letter adds, MacNeille said she would formally send the complaint to the housing authority.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement