Today I filed a complaint with Maryland’s Open Meetings Compliance Board concerning the Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Commission. The Commission is subject to the Open Meetings Act and discussing the bylaws of the Commission is not an exempt topic for discussion. At its first meeting on January 17, the Commission stated that it would hold a secret meeting on January 23 to discuss its proposed bylaws.
The next meeting of the Commission will be held this coming Wednesday, February 20, at 6:30pm. At this meeting, the Commission will publicly discuss its proposed procedures. The Commission is under no legal obligation to seek public comment on its proposed bylaws, and its press release for the meeting states that it will allow no such comments at this meeting. Its only legal obligation under the Open Meetings Act is to make its own deliberations public.
I would encourage members of this community to ask the Commission to follow not only the letter of the Open Meetings Law but also its spirit. I believe that the precedent of openness established by the Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Convention is a good basis for discussion. The Convention, in its many weeks advance notice of meetings and in many other little ways, went well beyond the minimum standards established in Maryland’s Open Meetings Act. However, given the extraordinary powers invested in the Commission and the fact that five of its eleven members are appointed by private interest groups, I believe that the Commission should strive for an even greater level of openness. For example, it should use the County’s new multimillion dollar TV system to broadcast and webcast candidate presentations (analogous to the current system of broadcasting/webcasting presidential debates). The purpose of these broadcasts would be to assess not only the candidates but also the Commission itself. Indeed, I believe the latter purpose would be even more important than the former one. The public needs to come to its own judgment about the extent to which the Commission acts as a backroom negotiating body among power brokers or, as it presents itself, a truly independent deliberative body intent on finding the best leadership for AACPS. The public can only come to this judgment if it has an opportunity to see for itself how the Commission acts. Moreover, the public’s ability to conveniently monitor the Commission will force the Commission to stay true to its stated principles.