My column in the Patch (click here to go to the article; also copied below).This year the Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Commission (SBNC) must nominate candidates for two open seats on the Anne Arundel County Board of Education. One seat is at-large, the other for legislative district 21. For each seat, the SBNC must nominate at least two candidates, from which the Governor must pick one by July 1, 2012.
On April 27, the candidate applications were due. On May 7, the SBNC disclosed the results. Three candidates are running for the at-large seat; two for the District 21 seat. One candidate is running for both the at-large and district 21 seat. The SBNC will vote on the candidates on May 29 and hold public hearings regarding the candidates on May 15, 23, and 29.
However, it is my judgment that the two winning nominees for each position can already be inferred with great certainty. Since the SBNC is legally required to nominate two names for each seat and District 21 only has two candidates, both can expect to be nominated. The expected District 21 nominees are Stacy Korbelak and Tracey Warren.
The at-large seat nominally has three candidates but one, Tracy Warren, is also a candidate for District 21. Although it is conceivable that the SBNC could nominate the same individual for both seats, I very much doubt in this case that that would happen. The expected at-large nominees are Patricia Nalley and Elizabeth Leight.
Ms. Nalley is the current president of the Board of Education, and I consider her to be a shoe-in to be reappointed by the Governor. However, Ms. Leight is not being foolish running for the seat, which she is certainly smart and well-connected enough to know she has no chance of winning. Ms. Leight has paid her dues and would be a good representative for the Hispanic community, which is currently unrepresented on the Board of Education. She will be nominated, and this will get her name out there and put her in an excellent position to be renominated when she doesn’t face an invincible opponent.
It is noteworthy that Ms. Leight originally planned on running for the District 21 seat. However, she lived in the old District 21. After the current decennial legislative redistricing cycle, she no longer lives in District 21. At first it wasn’t clear whether the old or new District 21 lines would apply for this election. But Maryland’s Attorney General has apparently recently issued an opinion to the SBNC that the new lines apply.
The two candidates for District 21 are relative unknowns compared to President Nalley and Ms. Leight. They both have adequate credentials, so to succeeed they will have to prove to the key SBNC stakeholder groups that they can be trusted.
All four candidates either work for government or work in government relations. President Nalley worked for AACPS for more than 30 years before retiring (she also has three relatives who work for AACPS); Ms. Leight works for the Society of Professional Benefit Administrators as its Director of Government Relations and Legal Affairs; Stacy Korbelak works at Howard Community College as an Assistant Professor of English; and Tracey Warren works in the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs as an attorney.
On April 19, I attended the SBNC’s public hearing to discuss administrative matters. Eight SBNC members attended plus the SBNC’s counsel. Two commissioners were absent. One remains unappointed by the Governor despite a term that expired last December. Two members of the public attended, myself and future candidate Leight.
Chairman Greene said that he had requested and was expecting an opinion from the Attorney General’s office regarding the effect of redistricting on candidate residency requirements; in particular, whether the residency requirement for District 21 would be the 2002 lines or the lines newly enacted in 2012. Commissioner Payne asked that the Attorney General opinion also clarify the status of sitting board members who have been redistricted out of the district their seat represents. (No mention was made of the citizens or potential candidates in Anne Arundel County who don’t live in any of the five legislative districts recognized in the statute creating the SBNC.)
Chairman Greene announced that the SBNC had received three complete applications, two for the District 21 seat and one for the at-large seat. He observed that under the law the SBNC had to provide two names for each opening, so this was potentially a problem unless someone stepped forward to apply for the at-large seat.
As for a communications strategy, Chairman Greene observed that they had failed to get a Capitalreporter for the last 2 years and thus would try the Patch. (As someone who has attended the great majority of SBNC public meetings since it began in 2008, I can say that a Capital reporter has only attended half a dozen meetings and usually reported by either slightly rewriting press releases or interviewing the SBNC Chair for a quote.) Commissioner Ebersberger suggested adding the Severna Park Voice and the Voices that have opened in Pasadena and Odenton because “they only publish good stories; they don’t chase stories.” Commissioner Greene concluded that” we’ll try to place stories in the Patch and Voice as well as the Capital.”
The SBNC then turned to revising a proposed procedural manual, a task that occupied the bulk of the meeting. Unfortunately, the commissioners spoke to each other in whispers with their mics turned off. They also did not make a copy of the manual available to the audience. After about fifteen minutes of this, I quietly went up to Ms. Davis, the SBNC’s counsel, and asked to see the draft copy of the procedural manual from which the SBNC members were working. She refused to get me a copy. Eventually, I decided to interrupt the SBNC meeting by asking that commissioners speak so the audience could hear and also provide the audience with a copy of the draft procedural manual. I was then provided with a copy but also told that I would not be allowed to speak again until public comments were allowed at the end of the meeting.
During public participation, I informed the SBNC that SBNC minutes for 2011 were still missing on the SBNC’s website. Currently, fewer than half the minutes from 2011 public meetings could be found on the SBNC’s website. I also noted that the website link to press releases/news, including meeting notices, was completely blank (as of May 7, it still was). Chairman Greene replied that he had repeatedly tried to get money from Maryland’s General Assembly for such purposes and had been refused. AACPS (its Public Information Office), not the SBNC, was responsible for maintaining the website and thus for any missing information. (Of note, this finger pointing has been going on now for five years, with apparently no one taking responsibility for the fact that the SBNC has made a mockery of Maryland’s open meeting laws; last January I testified about this problem, apparently to no effect, before the Maryland Senate’s Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.)
I observed that I had received notice of the SBNC’s April 19 meeting on the afternoon of April 16. I then attempted to poll the SBNC commissioners, from left to right sitting on the dais, how many days notice they felt was required under Maryland’s Open Meetings Act for non-emergency public meetings such as the SBNC’s meetings. In order, Ray Leone said five days, Kory Blake said “I cannot give a number,” Christine Davenport said 2 days, Joshua Greene said 48 hours and reminded the remaining commissioners that they were under no obligation to answer me. Christopher Mirenzi said 48 hours, Yevola Peters said “no opinion,” Lee Payne said 48 hours, and Arthur Ebersberger said 48 hours.
I was near the end of my allotted five minutes so did not pursue the matter. But for the record, the SBNC’s own bylaws require ten days notice: “The time and place of these meetings shall be determined by the Commissioners and notice thereof shall be given at least ten (10) days prior thereto to the Commissioners and the Public by a means that will provide the greatest opportunity for the Public to attend and where appropriate, participate in the same.” Maryland’s Open Meetings Act in fact specifies no specific number of days for notice, requiring only “reasonable advance notice.” Since Maryland’s Open Meetings Compliance Board does not take this notice requirement seriously (or other similarly vague requirements in the Open Meetings Act), the SBNC could probably have gotten away with just one day’s notice.
Finally, I asked the SBNC commissioners to tell me the annual compensation of Ms. Davis, their counsel. They all replied that they didn’t know.