Note: The concerns about public meeting records expressed in this article echo J.H. Snider’s testimony on January 21, 2016 before the Maryland General Assembly’s Senate Committee on Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs and his Washington Post op-ed on January 14, 2016 as well as his testimony before the School Board Nominating Commission on November 17, 2015 and January 7, 2015.
Addendum: After getting a copy of the complaint from the Office of the Attorney General on March 18, 2016, I discovered that the complaint more than echos my Washington Post op-ed. An entire paragraph was copied word for word from my op-ed without attribution of any kind. Anne Arundel County’s politicians and leading newspaper often resort to plagiarism, but it is still surprising when done in such a bold-faced way.
The county’s Democratic Central Committee wants the Office of the Attorney General to investigate the School Board Nominating Commission for allegedly failing to follow required procedures.
David Nitkin, a spokesman for Attorney General Brian Frosh, said the office received the request but doesn’t have the power to investigate school board nominating commissions.
County Democrats accused the majority Republican 11-member commission of ignoring a law that requires them to hold two public meetings before making recommendations on school board appointments to Gov. Larry Hogan.
The commission held one January public meeting, during which they interviewed seven candidates, heard public comments and voted to make candidate recommendations.
The commission chose Terry Gilleland, a former Republican state delegate; James Appel, an employee in the Hogan administration; Timothy Boston, a former county teacher; and Maria Sasso, a real estate agent.
Those chosen would be replacing school board members Debbie Ritchie and Solon Webb, whose terms expired in July. Both are also seeking reappointment and are serving until Hogan makes a decision.
The previous commission, made up of former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s appointees, gave Hogan recommendations for Ritchie, Webb and two others last summer. The governor chose not to appoint anyone.
In September, the governor replaced O’Malley’s appointees, including Christine Davenport — a former school administrator and chairwoman of the county Democratic Central Committee — to the nominating commission with his own. In October, following a request from County Executive Steve Schuh, Hogan asked the commission to reopen the applications.
The letter also criticized the commission for making administrative changes, such as changing the voting requirement, without sufficient public input and not publishing complete records of the meetings. Davenport declined to explain the request in further detail.
J. H. Snider, the president of a nonprofit organization for government reform, said the complaint is motivated by the Democratic committee’s political agenda.
Snider, who said he attended or watched almost every commission meeting, said he never heard Davenport raise due process issues as a commissioner.
“The way politics works, this included, no one cares about process until it relates to their agenda,” Snider said.
Davenport did not comment on the criticism.
The letter from the committee criticized the commission for publishing incomplete meeting notes. For example, the commission’s website is missing any meeting notes from 2011 to 2012, during the previous commission.
Josh Greene, O’Malley’s appointee and former chair of the commission, did not respond to calls for comment.
Jamie Falcon, who Hogan appointed, raised the issue of the missing meeting notes during the new commission’s first meeting. The new commission has held two meetings and published minutes for the first meeting.
Falcon said the commission plans to publish minutes for the second meeting once it’s approved during its next meeting.
The commission is holding another meeting on Monday to fulfill its legal requirement to hosts two public comment sessions before making recommendations to Hogan. The commissioners will likely revote on candidates after listening to public comment, Falcon said.
He said the Democratic Central Committee’s letter is an effort to hinder the commission’s efforts to find new nominees.
Snider said both commissions had due process problems. He complained about transparency issues with the previous commission, such as giving sufficient public notice; and record keeping, such as publishing minutes in a timely manner.
Snider said the underlying problem is the commission does not receive funding or support to maintain records and conduct its business.
“The public is getting what they’re paying for,” he said.
Source: Huang, Cindy, Democrats ask state to investigate School Board Nominating Commission, Capital, January 27, 2016.
David Nitkin’s response on behalf of the Attorney General is bizarre. Since 2008 the AG has issued more than a half dozen formal and informal opinions regarding the SBNC, including several that are posted on the SBNC’s website at http://www.aacps.org/admin/templates/sbnc.asp?articleid=1395&zoneid=24.
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