.... and the folks at Morgan State University have caught it.
University of Maryland Regents
In other diaries I noted the pair of secret meetings that the University of Maryland System regents had to talk about moving their big sports to the Big 10. These were on Nov. 18 and 19; they said everything was legal and legit over and over.
But by Dec. 7 they'd changed their tune (which was: "We didn't do nothing wrong, nothing to see").
The whole banana is explained here.
Not only were the meetings illegal, but three weeks later they issued a press release and admitted they were. The regents claimed the only error was lack of notice, but the "meeting notes" of the two sessions show otherwise.
A deeper look also reveals that this is not something extraordinary: they had at least two more secret phone meetings in 2012 alone. The regents and the chancellor may say to the press they were rushing about yelling OMG! OMG! OMG! when they were told they had to decide in a couple days about the Big 10. That's not the pattern that shows up from a year's worth of meeting records.
That's something which was also sketched out in a previous diary. There wil be more later on the UM System regents' 2012 meetings in review.
And Now: Morgan State
On Dec. 4 the Morgan State regents held a secret meeting. They voted in it to fire the president of the university. Not popular: Baltimore Sun video and story here.
Below the wriggling sheepskin, more.
This bunch has the same general problem: they can't find the Maryland Open Meetings Act with both hands.
A review of their meeting minutes shows numerous violations of the law's requirement to summarize topics discussed and actions taken in closed session.
They have, for a least a year and I'd guess since forever, taken far too long to approve and publish meeting minutes. (The state sets no hard and fast time limit, which is silly, but the Open Meetings Compliance Board says the word "reasonable" means five weeks at most unless something unusual happens).
They don't seem to ever have given legally sufficient and correct meeting notice on their web page. (Again, in the silly department, Maryland law does not require meeting materials to be placed online, but once a public body chooses to publish meeting notice through a particular means, such as its website, it must consistently use it, supplying specific date, time and location information where the public can find it).
And finally, they don't seem to be able to complete the required written "closing statement" for their closed meetings.
The UM regents have a similar problem. They prepare a partial, largely boilerplate, piece of paper for each closed session which is found hidden on their website. That is, except when they don't, as in at least four times in 2012.Ralph Jaffe, who ran as a Democratic write-in candidate in the past election, filed brief complaints with the Open Meetings Compliance Board taking exception to both boards' secret votes.
Why kvetch, you ask, if the stuff is on the UM regents' website? Because they have set a robots.txt file to repel any and all search engines. You can't Google this stuff.
Short Baltimore Sun story here.
The same regential denial dynamic is playing out at Morgan State, according to the Sun piece.
Board chair Dallas F. Evans declined to comment Thursday. A deputy attorney general assigned to the board attended the meeting, a spokesman has said, and did not believe that the board violated the open meetings law.Yes, they rush directly to the explanation: they had permission from unnamed assistant attorney generals. (Sorry all, not a "Get Out of Violation Free" card).
A phone call to Elena Langrill, the AAG assigned to the Morgan regents, revealed that not one but two AAGs attended the 12/4 meeting.
There was a little overlap and perhaps, she said, a while during which neither one was there. The other AAG was Thomas Faulk. Faulk was present at both the UM regents' illegal meetings on Nov 18-19.
In Maryland the presence of an attorney general staffer, or any lawyer for that matter, is irrelevant to legally conducting a closed session. Their presence does not "legalize" any and all violations by the public body: it is the public body that is responsible.
What seems odd is that the assistant AGs aren't speaking up to tell these boards that they are violating the law. I would imagine (but I could be wrong) that AAGs are there in part to make sure things follow the legally mandated path.
We will have to see if Morgan too issues a press release owning up to any misdeeds. Right now, the school is shut down.
A public body facing a complaint is given 30 days to state its case in writing. In the meantime, the UM regents have until early January to reply to complaints, and the Morgan board has until late January.