The chairman of the School Board Nominating Commission wants to deliberate about school board applicants in public, breaking from a tradition to hold those discussions in closed sessions.
Jamie Falcon said open discussions would increase transparency in the nominating process.
The group meets Monday to interview candidates for the District 33 seat on the county Board of Education and plans to make recommendations to Gov. Larry Hogan, who will then make the appointment. Allison Pickard currently holds the seat and is seeking reappointment.
Government groups such as the commission are required to have public meetings, but they are also allowed to meet in private to discuss issues such as personnel or certain legal matters. Those closed sessions can take place during open meetings.
The previous commission, led by former Gov. Martin O'Malley appointee Joshua Greene, deliberated on applicants in a closed session and returned hours later for a public vote. Greene did not return a call for comment.
Last September, Hogan replaced O'Malley's appointees with his own, swapping out Democrats for Republicans.
Since his appointment as chairman, Falcon has said he hopes to improve record keeping and increase transparency.
The new commission did not go into a closed session during its February meeting before a vote on applicants for the other nomination. But during the January meeting, commissioner Bill Jones, who represents the teachers' union, asked for a closed session before a public vote.
Commissioner Bob Burdon, who was also a part of the former commission, encouraged commissioners to vote in favor of a closed session. He argued that a closed session allowed commissioners to review the applications, share information and talk about the merits of each candidate.
Falcon said he was not in favor of holding that January discussion in private, but the commission voted in favor of it.
Despite Falcon's plans to advocate for an open session on Monday, Jones said he plans to renew his call for a closed session to deliberate on candidates.
Jones, who was also a part of the former commission, said he wants to avoid embarrassing applicants. He said an open session is the more transparent option, but "there are trade-offs."
The commissioners' evaluations of the candidates, some of which may be negative, "shouldn't be debated publicly," he said.
Burdon, president of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, also said he will vote to go to a closed session discussion on candidates.
"You don't want to cross any candidate ... in a public setting," he said.
Burdon said some public decisions should be discussed privately, citing the criminal justice system as an example.
J. H. Snider, a government reform activist, said if commissioners deliberate in private, they should explain their decision in public afterward.
Falcon led the commission to break with prior policies last year by leading a vote to change a supermajority requirement to a simple majority for recommending a candidate to the governor. He also moved the group's meetings out of the school administrative building into the Severna Park Community Center and plans to hold future meetings in other parts of the county as part of an effort to increase public participation.
But he's sticking by some rules of the former commission. He said recently the rules designate the chairman as the "official spokesperson" for the commission.
Jones, part of the commission for about four years, said only Greene spoke to reporters in past years.
Burdon, however, said that while the chairman was the main spokesman, no one prevented him from speaking to the press. Falcon said the rule does not bar others from speaking.
However, Vice Chairwoman Amalie Brandenburg declined to comment earlier this month on the commission because of the rule.
This could be the last appointment considered by this commission. Legislation working its way through the General Assembly would change the membership of the panel and the rules before the next vacancy in 2017.