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Report: Commissioners Did Not Violate Open Meetings Act

However, the state compliance board found that the Carroll County Board of Commissioners did not give sufficient notice of a closed meeting held January 13.

The Open Meetings Compliance Board found that the did not violate the Open Meetings Act; however, the compliance board did "note the appearance of secrecy" in the disclosure of the meeting.

The report (pdf attached) was released July 5 and concluded that "the commissioners did not violate the [Open Meetings] Act with respect to some aspects of that meeting, that we cannot reach a conclusion on others, and that the notice given was deficient".

Former county employee Neil Ridgely filed the complaint with the Open Meetings Compliance Board about a meeting that took place on Jan. 13 at the Bear Branch Nature Center.

Do you believe the Carroll County Commissioners practice open government? Tell us in comments.

In the complaint, Ridgely said that the commissioners "met to discuss public business without disclosing the location of the meeting, without voting in open session to close a meeting before excluding the public and without keeping the proper minutes."

According to a county government news release, the commissioners met in closed administrative session to "discuss housekeeping and/or managerial matters which are not subject to the Open Meetings Act".

"The simple fact is that this Board of Commissioners respects and practices open government. We set policy as a result of open debate, public votes and public disclosure," Commissioner Doug Howard said in a news release.

Ridgely said that the commissioners failed to make the details of the meeting available to the public.

"The Commissioners did not disclose their intentions of having a closed meeting and in fact surreptitiously made it appear they would be discussing legal matters with the County Attorney while not even inviting him to the meeting," Ridgely said in an email.

"The meeting was moved to Bear Branch Nature Center to avoid any possible public scrutiny under the guise of a 'retreat' with staff when the Commissioners were the only ones in attendance," Ridgely said.

Commissioner Haven Shoemaker said he was both pleased and disappointed with the report.

"I am very pleased that the Compliance Board found in our favor," Commissioner Haven Shoemaker said in a release. "But am disappointed that the Compliance Board tried to take a clearly straightforward meeting and insinuate conduct that if it had occurred would have violated the Act."

In the spirit of full disclosure, Neil Ridgely blogs on Westminster Patch.

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Native July 09, 2012 at 11:06 AM
Well, what do you know! The board is exonerated again. Another wild goose chase by the haters...... This ought to get interesting! Good morning Neil, Buck, & Bonnie!
EBurger July 09, 2012 at 11:46 AM
It is time for Neil to take a breather and give the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board a much needed rest.
Buck Harmon July 09, 2012 at 12:36 PM
5 ring circus continues to walk the tight rope... follower clowns and all.. "We conclude that the notice given by the Commissioners that a meeting on Janurary 13,2012 was deficient and that we can not ascertain whether , in the actual event , the Commissioners performed functions subject to the Act's mandate that the business of the public be preformed in public." Hardly a win for elected public servants.....the intent was clear...
Native July 09, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Nah, all it means is that there are some folks out there who like to complain about nothing. Or, in other words, disgruntled liberals.
Native July 09, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Keep spinning it there Buck! Looking for a job in the obama administration?
Buck Harmon July 09, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Just quoted from the report....did you read it Native, or is it a bit beyond your comprehension level.....these guys are bad news, and you my fake friend are in denial for some reason. I clearly understand the fear of using your real name and accept your surrender of this topic.
Buck Harmon July 09, 2012 at 12:56 PM
"Deficient" best describes this BOC...
John D. Witiak July 09, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Nat, a home run THE BOC did not make. Especially when the BOC is all your party it does not do your credibility any good to white wash over its less than stellar ethics. Instead of being forthright, Nat, and keeping your own in line you needed a Democrat to light up the way. I expect better of you, Nat.
SOUTHWESTMINSTER July 09, 2012 at 01:30 PM
The BOC was held accountable and found not guilty, lets move on please.
Buck Harmon July 09, 2012 at 02:43 PM
They were not found not guilty...there was no trial...the behavior was found to be questionably gray at best....this is not sound leadership....sound leadership would never attempt to pull off this kind of ethical dance...there would be no need. Move on to what?
Buck Harmon July 09, 2012 at 02:45 PM
They were found to be " Deficient"....Carroll citizens deserve better...much better..
John D. Witiak July 09, 2012 at 03:17 PM
South, why the compulsion to gloss over deficient? How do you benefit from a deficient BOC?
SOUTHWESTMINSTER July 09, 2012 at 03:45 PM
The same reason you gloss over "the commissioners did not violate the [Open Meetings] Act. I do NOT condone what took place, it was shady at best.
EBurger July 09, 2012 at 03:45 PM
I was expecting these typical responses from the usual suspects. But the spin on the decision is quite impressive. They chose to hang their hat on the "Deficient BOC"' ; however, the BOC's decision was deficient, not the BOC! It is time for them to move on..... to their next attack on the unethical evil-doers. I look forward to it.
John D. Witiak July 09, 2012 at 05:39 PM
No one here is accusing the BOC of doing anything more than what the ethics board said they did. But anyone who is interested in good government knows that there is reason to be clear on the fact that the ethics board decision was about as clean as a rusty knife and how they went about what they did begged the question of being totally in the public's interest. And so what is the benefit to you of ignoring some parts of the decision which lessen the quality of our Carroll County Government?
John D. Witiak July 09, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Politicians should learn the value of saying "I'm sorry. I made mistakes. Forgive me. I won't let it happen again. Citizens deserve better." Spin from supporters only makes mistakes look worse than perhaps they actually are. If they would do that most citizens would go on and let by homes be by homes. But not until then.
Judith M. Smith July 09, 2012 at 06:18 PM
I think that people should actually read the whole decision before making rash statements without too much light, just heat. The board had been advised against doing this...and we, the taxpayers, even paid for their lunch there...and more gas mileage..so does this now set a precedent for being able to do this "retreat" BS again??? It just puzzles me why this was necessary...with no staff or legal representation present, and no reason given for the meeting "behind closed door"...what the heck was that pressing???
Judith M. Smith July 09, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Perhaps you should look up the word "exonerated"....they were not exonerated...if anything, more questions about their actions have been raised.
SOUTHWESTMINSTER July 09, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Unfortunately "I'm sorry" is not in most politicians vocabulary.
Buck Harmon July 09, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Hey Shoemaker...provide us with some facts about the retreat meeting, like minutes , notes, a recording or perhaps the truth from your own mind...That statement was pretty lame...

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