J.H. Snider was the only member of the public to testify at the June 6, 2017 School Board Appointment Commission (SBAC) meeting. That may partly be explained because there was no public notice that public testimony would be allowed at the meeting.
The primary purpose of his testimony was to ask the new Appointment Commission not to repeat the same mistakes and anti-democratic practices of the previous Nominating Commission, including bylaws that discouraged transparent and accountable commission procedures. Rather than repeat his recommendations to the prior commission, he asked that his March 14, 2016 written testimony before the Nominating Commission be placed in the public record. The Chair of the new Commission agreed that it would be placed in the record. However, at the subsequent meeting of the Commission on June 19, 2017 to approve the proposed bylaws, which were based on the previous bylaws plus statutorily required amendments, the Chair claimed that no member of the public had commented on the bylaws. The Commission then approved the bylaws, including the previously much abused Article VIII.
Public Testimony of J.H. Snider
Before the School Board Appointment Commission of Anne Arundel County
June 6, 2017
My name is Jim Snider. As many of you know, I was the leading student of the previous process for selecting Anne Arundel Board of Election members via a commission process.
In the public notice for today’s meeting, I saw no mention of an opportunity for public comment. Thank you for offering an opportunity for public comment on the agenda, which I picked up upon entering tonight’s meeting.
It is essential to offer an opportunity for public comment at the public meetings at which you decide on your procedures.
As you may know, the last school board selection commission held two secret meetings to select its initial procedures and was later reprimanded by Maryland’s Open Meetings Compliance Board for that behavior.
Televising this meeting is a step in the right direction. But since Maryland’s public right-to-know laws have a loophole that allows you to conduct secret deliberations via email, televising per se can easily mislead the public because it implies that the public actually has an opportunity to observe your critical deliberations.
If that loophole is fully utilized, then a meeting’s real format is transformed largely into a public hearing. But if it’s a public hearing without allowing the public to testify, then it’s a pseudo public hearing. A real public hearing must allow public testimony.
I would now like to point you to my extended essay on the previous school board selection commission procedural abominations that couldn’t withstand the light of day. It can be found at my blog, eLighthouse.info, under a post dated March 14, 2016. I am also submitting a copy for the public record, which I hope you will vote to include in your public record as an important record.
As an example of one issue I hope you’ll address publicly, please announce your email policy for official communications, especially for the chair, vice-chair, and secretary of this public body. Previous practice of the chair was to use four private emails to conduct commission business.
Key Commission Dates
- Monday, June 19, 2017, to review and vote on bylaws and approve a candidate application form.
- Tuesday, July 25, 2017, to conduct candidate interviews.
- Wednesday, July 26, 2017, to conduct candidate interviews (if necessary; dependent on the number of
- Thursday, August 24, 2017, to select a candidate to fill the seat