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Prince George's County agency says it violated open meetings law

Two statewide legal advocacy groups based in Baltimore were correct in accusing the Housing Authority of Prince George's County of violating the state open meetings law when its board met in August to approve a new budget without notifying the public.

The groups — Maryland Legal Aid and Maryland Disability Law Center — filed a joint complaint with the attorney general's open meetings compliance board after learning at the housing authority's September meeting that the members had voted the previous month on the fiscal 2015 budget and on a consultant's contract.

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The housing authority's executive director, Eric C. Brown, acknowledged in his written response this month that the complaint was accurate. But, Brown wrote, "the failure to publish a notice of this meeting was an inadvertent administrative error by [the housing authority], not an intentional act or an effort to conduct the board's business without public notice or scrutiny."

"For that, [the housing authority] apologizes" to the public, the legal groups and the open meetings compliance board, he wrote. The board has developed a timeline and checklist for staff to follow to "insure that this will not happen again."

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The housing authority will carry out any remedial action that the compliance board may order, Brown wrote. The board's opinion is expected in the next few weeks, an official said.

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the board received 32 complaints and issued opinions on 19. Seven of those opinions centered on government agencies failing to properly notify the public of meetings.

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