Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

January 8, 2013

Transparency

Lawmakers act to put more bite in open meetings law

Public bodies that violate Maryland’s Open Meetings Act have had little to worry about — other than the proverbial slap on the hand. All that would change under legislation to be filed during the 2013 Maryland General Assembly legislative session that opens today in Annapolis.

Delegate Dan Morhaim, a Democrat from Baltimore County who is chairman of the House Government Operations subcommittee, plans on introducing a bill to beef up the regulatory powers of the Open Meetings Compliance Board, according to Maryland-Reporter.com.

Morhaim’s bill would allow the board to fine public bodies for illegally closing meetings. The first offense could bring a fine of $1,000. For a third offense, the fine could reach $10,000.

Additionally, Morhaim wants members of any public body violating the law to sign an acknowledgement that the compliance board has found them guilty of the violation.

The findings of the three-member compliance board also could be admitted as evidence in a lawsuit.

Too often responses to violations of the open meetings act are simply handled by the public body’s attorney, with little, or no, involvement or accountability from people who actually met in private.

Since there is no “teeth” in the existing law, some public bodies have a cavalier attitude about closed meetings, knowing they will face no consequences if they are found in violation of the open meetings law.

“Currently their (the compliance board) opinions are only advisory and tend to be ignored,” Morham told MarylandReporter.com. He said there is a new, online course on how to comply with the open meetings act, “so excuses of not knowing the act are less convincing.:”

State lawmakers should do what they can to  make sure public bodies are acting in a transparent fashion.

Public business should be done before the public when at all possible. Morhaim’s bill is a step in that direction.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Support Canal classrooms with tax-deductible gift

    While your April 17 article (“Park Service opens Canal classrooms,” Page 1A) described this exciting program accurately, your readers may be wondering how they can help support this new educational opportunity for school children in Allegany County.

    April 18, 2014

  • Ivan Hall story brings back memories of a unique man

    I enjoyed Mike Sawyers’ Ivan Hall story. It was well written and brought back some wonderful memories of my Cumberland days and especially, an unique man.

    April 18, 2014

  • It’s a secret It’s a secret

    Could someone enlighten us about why not even the names of the two entities bidding on development of the Footer Dye Works building can be divulged?
    A Times-News article about the bids included an explanation from a lawyer for the attorney general’s office about the need to keep the names and other information secret at this time. Despite that, the logic of not divulging at least a little more information escapes us.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • What do we do about those who weren’t criminals after all?

    Now that Maryland has become the 17th state to (finally) decriminalize possession of marijuana, one could say that the legislature and governor should be patted on the back for doing the right thing.

    April 17, 2014

  • The first step The first step

    If all goes as planned, Frostburg State University will one day offer a doctorate in nursing, a physician’s assistant program and a new health sciences building on campus.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Translations differ, but the message is eternal

    This letter is in response to a recent letter titled “One cannot compromise on God’s word” (April 13 Times-News). I had previously written a letter titled “Why are compromises so difficult to achieve” (April 7).

    April 15, 2014

  • Closing the loopholes will help clear the regulatory waters

    After a decade of uncertainty over Clean Water Act jurisdiction following Supreme Court challenges in 2001 and 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers announced a forthcoming administrative rule to close enforcement loopholes, restoring protections to 20 million acres of wetlands, more than half the nation’s streams, and drinking water for 117 million Americans.

    April 15, 2014

  • The first step Remember where your freedom comes from before criticizing

    The deal at Fort Hood could have been avoided if it was caught in time.
    When you think a GI is not acting right, have him or her checked out before you put them back on duty and give them a weapon. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious and dangerous problem if it is not taken care of right away.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Where to look Where to look

    Drive anywhere in Maryland and it seems there is one highway construction project after another. While it is good to see our roads and bridges being upgraded, it can be nerve-wracking for anyone traveling a long distance.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Midterm elections give chance to return to American values

    A movement has been started by veterans of our armed forces to get out the vote in 2014. That includes Coast Guard and Merchant Marine personnel for those not familiar with the history of both and their sacrifice. This is no small special interest  group, but many millions of Americans who can have an enormous impact on the  outcome of the November election if they all respond.

    April 14, 2014