Today I filed a second complaint with Maryland’s Open Meetings Compliance Board concerning the School Board Nominating Commission (SBNC). The first complaint was filed on February 16, 2008. This new complaint focused on two obscure provisions of SBNC’s bylaws, which were passed on February 20, 2008, and pointed to some hard-to-justify differences in the stated intent versus actual implementation of the Open Meetings Act. Unlike the first complaint, which focused on blatant violations of the Open Meetings Act, this complaint focused on areas where the School Board Nominating Commission was apparently following the letter of the law but clearly violating its intent and spirit.
No one should be under the illusion that violating the Open Meetings Act is considered a serious offense by law enforcement authorities. The reason the Open Meetings Act and the Public Information Act are so frequently violated is that they are not enforced in any meaningful way and thus taken no more seriously by office holders than speed limits or mandates to pay the payroll tax for babysitters. On the other hand, democracy requires that citizens be able to hold their representatives to account. So when our representatives play the game of spouting openness but practicing secrecy (especially when that secrecy involves vital issues of public concern), the public is harmed.
I hope to write up my reflections on the SBNC’s last meeting (February 20, 2008), new bylaws, and other related actions, either later today or, most likely, tomorrow. Please note that the next meeting of the SBNC is scheduled for Tuesday, March 25, 2008. At the February 20, 2008 meeting only one member of the public, other than the Capital reporter, was present.
Second complaint URL
First complaint URL
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