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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.

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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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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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