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.