End of the Line for Kleine

By Adam Pagnucco.

Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine, who admitted to two ethics violations and attempted to cure them through a $5,000 payment and other remedies, has resigned. County Executive Marc Elrich has announced that former State Senator and current budget director Rich Madaleno will succeed him subject to confirmation by the county council.

Originally, Kleine was set to remain in his position. Bethesda Beat reported this on July 7:

County Executive Marc Elrich, in a statement to Bethesda Beat on Monday, wrote that Kleine is a “committed public servant” and that the CAO’s agreement with the Ethics Commission “resolves the matter.”

“Andrew has acknowledged that his actions were an error in judgment and has accepted responsibility for his actions,” he wrote. “I appreciate that Andrew has cooperated with the Ethics Commission’s investigation from the very beginning to resolve this situation.”

But the matter was far from resolved. On July 28, the county council discussed the ethics report and erupted with fury. Multiple council members vowed to obtain more information about the issue, guaranteeing that it would not die as long as Kleine remained. That forced Elrich’s hand and resulted in today’s announcement, the first resignation of a MoCo Chief Administrative Officer due to ethics issues that anyone can remember.

Elrich’s press release appears below. If there is a severance package, the release does not mention it.

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County Executive Marc Elrich Nominates Budget Director Rich Madaleno to Serve as New Chief Administrative Officer Following Andrew Kleine’s Resignation
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020

County Executive Marc Elrich today announced that he will nominate Richard Madaleno as the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for Montgomery County. Madaleno’s nomination follows the resignation of Andrew Kleine, who has served a CAO for the first 20 months of the Elrich Administration. Madaleno will begin serving as acting CAO on Aug. 16.

County Executive Elrich expressed appreciation for Kleine’s many contributions to the County Government. “During his time as CAO, Andrew Kleine led the County Government’s effort to reorganize services ranging from public safety to technology services,” said Elrich. “He championed a Turn the Curve initiative to empower County employees to rethink and improve the delivery of services to our million-plus residents. Over the past five months, he has played a critical role in our community’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. I thank him for his many contributions and wish him well in future endeavors.”

Madaleno, who is serving as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, is a lifelong Montgomery County resident. He has spent his career serving the people of the County in leadership roles at the County and the State levels and had a long career as an elected representative for Montgomery County in the Maryland General Assembly. He served from 2003-2007 in the Maryland House of Delegates and from 2007 to 2019 as a State Senator representing District 18. While in the Senate, Madaleno was the Vice Chair of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee where he was known for his ability to find solutions to some of the most challenging budget problems facing the state. He was a leader in education reform serving on the Kirwan Commission. Madaleno also worked in the County’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations from 1995 to 2002.

“Rich is trusted by community groups and policymakers throughout the County and State for his leadership skills and budgeting acumen, which will serve the County well as we face the most significant challenges of our generation,” said Elrich. “I am confident that his experience and expertise will help my administration deliver on my promise to build a healthy, well-functioning, innovative, equitable and inclusive community for all of our residents.”

The County Executive’s CAO nomination must be approved by the Montgomery County Council. Councilmembers are scheduled to return from their summer recess in Sept.

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Nine Districts Supporters Speak

By Adam Pagnucco.

In prior posts, I have noted support of the Nine Districts charter amendment by Republicans, developers and unions. But a lot more people beyond those groups would like to have nine council districts and I recently asked them why. Here are a few comments from supporters I received with names removed to protect their identities. I am not saying that they are necessarily right, but in order to understand Nine Districts, you have to understand sentiments like these.

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Potomac resident: I support 9 Districts because I don’t feel like my area has adequate representation. I want my representative to live in my area and know the ins and outs of what we need and want. Community leaders should live in their community.

Germantown resident: Taxation without representation. Just like the British thought they were kind and benevolent rulers, the Takoma Park-heavy leadership is similarly clueless about what goes on far away in upcounty. You’ve written about how hard it is to beat incumbents in elections, and I don’t think we will get folks familiar with upcounty without a major structural change like Nine Districts. We can’t get a call back from the at-large members up here, let alone get them to truly understand our issues.

Boyds resident: I have been involved for several years in advocating for upcounty issues and we get lip service (usually no response), but when it comes to voting, at large members just vote with the down county members. So practically speaking down county has eight votes and upcounty has only one, Craig Rice. That’s why one to one is better – total and clear responsibility.

Bethesda resident: We live in a very diverse county. The current structure has ended up concentrating political power down county which results in issues of import to upcounty communities getting short shrift. The current structure has also resulted in a uniformity of political views among our leaders. Even if I tend to agree with the stances of the current leaders on most issues, a more diverse set of viewpoints will be better for our community.

Clarksburg resident: I support 9 districts because Clarksburg constantly gets abused due to lack of political representation. The planning board wants to create a loophole to eliminate home building moratoria so they can keep issuing building permits in Clarksburg regardless of how crowded the schools get.

Montgomery Village resident: I listened to council members that live in Silver Spring and Takoma Park say how much they understand upper county because they came up to rallies or for some other “visit.” I’ve lived in downtown Bethesda (the real one not North) for five years and now in Montgomery Village for four. Two different worlds. Even the produce section of the grocery stores are different. I’m tired of politicians that talk about diversity as their key issue but don’t actually talk about how they can improve opportunities through jobs and new business growth. We’re actively looking to leave the county after this week’s display at the council meeting and BOE.

Olney resident: My experience is that at-large council members are not accountable to anyone. In theory they are accountable to the voters but in practice they are controlled by those who contribute the most to their campaign funds.

North Potomac resident: I have written my at-large “representatives” on several occasions in recent months (along with other council members as well) and the at-large members don’t even bother to send me an acknowledgement of my email. I know some members do send acknowledgements because some have acknowledged emails. There is nothing so frustrating as not only having my concerns ignored, but so flagrantly ignored as not to even acknowledge an email. It’s incredibly arrogant. They clearly don’t represent me and don’t want to. And as a life-long registered Democrat they can’t claim I am not a “constituent.” And even my district Council member doesn’t respond substantively as I assume he has too many constituents to be able to engage with individual constituents.

Gaithersburg resident: I think I support the Nine Districts because it seems to be an improvement – although imperfect – over the present system of “representation.” As a resident of our precious Ag Reserve, I have seen this Council make incursions into the Reserve without (in my opinion) fully researching and considering the effects of their actions on the preservation of farmland and open spaces. Hopefully, the Nine District system of representation would provide a better system for us to make our concerns known. The “At Large” members owe their elections to the highly populated areas, and as such, they can easily discount our concerns. That said, it does depend on the conscientiousness of the particular At Large member. One At Large member did reach out to the upcounty, and met with us at the Damascus Library. I am open to being persuaded to retain the present system but presently am leaning to voting for the Nine District option.

Clarksburg resident: As others are saying – responsiveness and representation. The At-Large system without any balance of geographic residential location leaves hundreds of thousands under- or un-represented. The lone one or two council member(s) who needs multiple at-large members to make change happen is too often left alone on issues. In theory at-large means you have all four of them representing you; in reality, at least in upcounty, we often have none. Zero. And this lack of responsiveness and responsibility can be summarized in one word, which is broad enough for those familiar with recent county history: Clarksburg.

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How Not to Restructure Government

By Adam Pagnucco.

Dear readers, let’s consider the following sequence of events.

2018: County executive candidate Marc Elrich campaigns on a platform of restructuring government. Elrich writes in the Washington Post:

Far from saddling taxpayers with higher bills, I will streamline county government. Unions and their members, our county’s workforce, know and trust me. That is why we announced our plan to restructure county government together. Our county is facing difficult financial times; without thoughtful changes, employees will face across-the-board cuts.

August 2019: The three county employee unions, who expected to partner with Elrich to restructure government, blast Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine in writing for “hindering progress” in labor relations. Kleine, the administrative head of county government, was supposed to be a key player in restructuring.

2019-2020: Instead of streamlining government, Elrich recommends two budgets that cumulatively add 271 full-time equivalent positions to county government at a combined cost of $58 million. After trims by the county council, the two approved budgets during Elrich’s tenure add a combined 184 full-time positions and 12 part-time positions.

March 2020: Elrich recommends a budget that adds positions and raises taxes despite repeated campaign pledges to not raise taxes. The county council immediately rejects the tax hike and later implements a same services budget.

April 2020: The county’s finance department estimates that the county could lose up to a combined $600 million in the current and next fiscal years. A later estimate in July is in the same ballpark.

June 2020: The county advertises and requests responses to informal solicitation #1118023, a consultant contract for “Cost Efficiency Study Group Consulting Services.”

July 2020: The county’s budget director informs the county council about the consulting contract and its relationship with a new “government efficiency work group.” This prompts a letter to Kleine by the three members of the council’s Government Operations Committee, Nancy Navarro (chair), Andrew Friedson and Sidney Katz, asking about the identity and compensation of the consultant, the membership of the work group and prior additions of positions in the budget.

July 2020: Kleine admits to two ethics violations and the county council erupts in outrage, putting the future of Elrich’s top manager in doubt.

August 6, 2020: Kleine’s deputy, Fariba Kassiri, replies to the council with the following information: the consultant, Matrix Consulting Group Ltd., will be paid $92,000 for a twelve-week period beginning this month to advise a “cost efficiency study group” containing county government officials and representatives of the county’s largest employee union (MCGEO). “The Consultant will assist the group abolish at minimum 100 vacant positions by identifying potential cost savings and/or efficiency enhancements. Additionally, the Consultant will provide a written report approximately 3 months after the project commences that will contain findings and recommendations. The report will be shared with the County Council once it has been finalized.”

So let’s summarize. After doing nothing to restructure government for a year and a half, the administration will be paying a consultant $92,000 to help it eliminate 100 or more vacant positions after it has already added almost 200 positions in the last two budgets.

By definition, vacant positions do not have a cash cost since no one earning salary and benefits occupies them. How does eliminating them save cash? And since the county’s budget office already tracks these positions, why is a consultant necessary for identifying them?

In reading the administration’s response, I am reminded of the Leggett administration’s elimination of nearly 1,000 positions from Fiscal Year 2009 through Fiscal Year 2012 during the Great Recession. That was done mostly through attrition since roughly 6% of the workforce, or 500-600 positions, turn over each year. I could be wrong, but I worked at the county council for part of that time and I don’t recall that process being driven by consultants.

The very concept of spending money on a consultant to save zero money by eliminating vacant positions – something the county can do and has done by itself – is totally banana cakes. If this is how county management intends to address the hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue which will soon come due, then the county council’s bloody meat axe awaits.

The council’s letter and the administration’s answer (mysteriously not signed by Kleine) appears below.

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Muslim Coalition Blasts Elrich, Council

By Adam Pagnucco.

A coalition of Muslim activists has written County Executive Marc Elrich and the county council expressing their frustration that no members of their community were selected for the county’s new Commission on Racial Equity and Social Justice. Their letter appears below.

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August 5, 2020

Dear Executive Elrich and Montgomery County Councilmembers,

We are a coalition of Muslim activists and allies affiliated with a broad array of local and national Muslim organizations and mosques. Many of us are also active in non-faith-based organizations seeking to promote diversity, inclusion, and social justice in our county. The Montgomery County Muslim community is frustrated and deeply disappointed that the County’s newly formed Commission on Racial Equity and Social Justice excludes any Muslim representation. Many of us met with the County Executive in December 2019 to convey our concerns about being marginalized and asked that our community be represented on the Commission. Our understanding was that this request was agreed to and we spent considerable time vetting and offering you a candidate.

Ten percent of County residents are Muslim. Moreover, the Muslim community is intersectional with marginalized groups. Twenty percent of Muslims are Black and many are first-generation immigrants. It is thus disheartening that there have been a number of documented instances of discrimination and violation of our civil rights by our own county officials.

For example, two government employees were engaged in the blacklisting of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) from county activities. Furthermore, Montgomery County’s Police Department was actively engaged in a surveillance grant for several years predominantly targeting Muslim youth. In fact, the current Director of Public Information revealed his prejudice and willingness to violate our civil liberties in a remark about the need to monitor the Muslim community because “how are we going to explain dropping this [surveillance program] if someone does something not good from one of the mosques. What’s the harm.”

What is even more disturbing about this continued marginalization of our community is that one of your appointees to the Commission, Jim Stowe was actively involved in both the CAIR blacklist and the surveillance program.

The Commission on Racial Equity and Social Justice must reflect the diversity of our County in gender, race, ethnicity and yes, religious affiliation. We hope that Mr. Stowe has come to understand that his past acts and views served to marginalize our community and are not aligned with the Commission’s mandate which is to promote inclusiveness and work against prejudice of all forms and the otherization of minority communities. This includes being aware of and addressing anti-Muslim sentiment.

It is unfortunate that the Commission does not have a Muslim member. We ask that you seek alternative ways to ensure Muslim representation so that our unique and important concerns can be heard. The American-Muslim experience is one faced by Black people and other people of color as well as immigrant communities and minority communities of faith. The American-Muslim voice must be present if the new efforts of the County Council to improve social justice and bring about racial equity is to have legitimacy.

Sincerely,

Salahudeen Abdul Kareem
Saqib Ali
Basem Bakir
Ilhan Cagri
Hisham Garti
Fariha Haque
Samira Hussein
Deeba Jafri
Susan Kerin
Tasnuva Khan
Idris Mokhtarzada
Sara Rahnama
Aref Ramadan
Rida Bukhari Rizvi

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MoCo Gives Up on Blanket Private School Shutdown

By Adam Pagnuccco.

Montgomery County health officer Travis Gayles just issued a new order rescinding his recent order shutting down MoCo private schools for in-person instruction. Gayles’s new order states, “I, Travis A. Gayles, M.D., Ph.D., Health Officer for Montgomery County, Maryland, despite believing that it is necessary to close nonpublic schools for in person instruction to protect the public, do hereby, pursuant to the August 6, 2020 Memorandum issued by the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health, rescind the August 5, 2020 Health Officer Directive Regarding Nonpublic Schools.”

That doesn’t mean private schools can do whatever they want. The state’s memorandum says that private school reopenings should be done in “close consultation” with local health departments using guidance from the state health department. That means there is still a role for regulation. But MoCo has conceded that there won’t be a blanket shutdown.

The county’s press release appears below.

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Health Order Prohibiting Nonpublic Schools Rescinded by Montgomery County Health Officer
For Immediate Release: Friday, August 7, 2020

Reemphasizing the need to protect the health and safety of Montgomery County residents as well as parents, students, teachers and staff from the spread of COVID-19, County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles today announced that he has rescinded his health order that prohibited nonpublic schools from opening for in-person instruction until after Oct. 1, 2020. The decision was made due to the new policy announced yesterday by the State Department of Health prohibiting the blanket closure of nonpublic schools.

Today’s new Health Officer Directive and Order regarding public, private and independent schools, dated Aug. 7, 2020, is effective immediately and rescinds the order dated Aug 5, 2020.

The Health Officer continues to strongly advise schools against in-person learning due to the risks posed by COVID-19 and has asked that the Department of Health provide articulable criteria to be used in determining acceptable and safe levels of activity in schools.

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Private Schools Caught in Elrich-Hogan Feud

By Adam Pagnucco.

Last November, I wrote about the growing feud between Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and Governor Larry Hogan. Back then, the issues were the governor’s proposed Beltway widening project, the dispute about how to fix MoCo’s crumbling public safety communications system, the thin blue line flag that was delivered to a MoCo police station and transportation funding. Some of those issues have faded over time but the general radioactivity between the two men can still melt hazmat suits. And now the feud is threatening to blow up MoCo’s private schools.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were roughly 190,000 people age 5 through 18 living in MoCo in 2018. MCPS K-12 enrollment was 158,101 in the 2018-19 school year, suggesting that about 30,000 students, or almost one-sixth of all MoCo kids, were in private school or home school. The Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns series identified 108 private school establishments in the county with 6,610 employees in 2017. Their combined annual payroll was $322 million.

Private schools are a big deal in MoCo.

Right now, private school employees, parents and students are caught in a tit-for-tat power struggle between Elrich and Hogan. This isn’t the typical sparring that the two do over social media. With the county saying one thing and the state saying the opposite, what are these families and employees supposed to do? If you’re a school and you open, the county could fine you. If you don’t, your own parents could sue you and/or pull their kids from your school.

It’s the worst of all worlds!

The situation calls for the low-key tactics of former County Executive Ike Leggett. Hogan, a good old boy developer and son of a Republican politician, and Leggett, a soft-spoken law professor who had risen from a childhood of poverty, couldn’t be more different. But despite their different backgrounds and beliefs, Leggett understood the powers of the governor and learned how to work him. Leggett succeeded in getting Hogan to back off a campaign promise to cancel the Purple Line and the two worked hand-in-hand to lure Amazon to MoCo. If Leggett had any criticism of Hogan, he kept it private. Leggett took a loooooong time to endorse Hogan’s general election rival, Democrat Ben Jealous, and never campaigned against Hogan. The two became peas in a pod – and an odd-looking pod at that!

The lesson of Leggett is not one of capitulation but of continuing to talk despite areas of disagreement. Leggett never made things personal even when other people wanted to. I wrote many tough pieces on his administration and Leggett would respond by seeing me at an event, shaking my hand and saying, “How are you? Is everything OK? Let me know if you need something.” Then I would feel bad about being so hard on him and I would go beat up someone else for a while!

Leggett, who originally hired current health officer Travis Gayles, would have found a way to work this current dispute out. Working the phones with Hogan and state health secretary Bobby Neall, Leggett and his people would have devised a stringent network to regulate private school reopenings without provoking a legal war with the state. And he would have kept it out of the press. The only sign of discussion would have been mutual praise between Leggett and Hogan of what a great job each was doing on handling COVID. As for the private schools, many would probably have opted for distance learning rather than deal with cumbersome county bureaucracy and plan approvals, thereby producing a similar result to the one desired by Elrich. It just would have happened without yelling and screaming.

Leggett is happily retired from elected service now and is probably laughing as he reads this column. He is still around. Maybe Elrich and Hogan should bring him back, always the calmest guy in the room, to settle their increasingly bitter feud.

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State Responds to New MoCo Shutdown of Private Schools

By Adam Pagnucco.

Maryland Secretary of Health Robert Neall has responded to Montgomery County’s new order shutting down private schools for in-person instruction. In a memo to the state’s health officers (including MoCo health officer Travis Gayles), Neall wrote, “The State of Maryland’s position is that all schools, including public school systems and non-public schools, be provided with the individualized opportunity to determine how they are able to comply with the federal and state COVID-19 guidance to reopen safely and protect students and staff. Those determinations should be made in close consultation with the affected schools and local health departments with Maryland Department of Health guidance.”

In other words, the state is saying once again that there should not be blanket closures of private schools.

So let’s stop back and take a broader view. The county’s original order shutting down private schools was based on authority contained in Governor Larry Hogan’s original emergency order. So Hogan amended his emergency order to exempt private schools from private shutdowns. The county said fine, we will issue a new shutdown order based on a different section of state law. Now Hogan’s health secretary is reiterating state authority over health policy and saying, “No you’re not.”

Looming over all of this is the tangled structure of appointment and reporting relationships between health officers and the state. Calvert County has a good description of that.

Neall’s memo to county health officers appears below.

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Top Seventh State Stories, July 2020

By Adam Pagnucco.

These were the top stories on Seventh State in July ranked by page views.

1. Restaurant: My Staff Will Not Wear Face Masks
2. MCEA: MCPS Reopening Plan “Wholly Inadequate” to Protect Students and Staff
3. Volcano in Rockville
4. The Upcounty Doesn’t Vote and Nobody Seems to Care
5. Distance Learning May be Plan C, but it is the Best Option Right Now
6. MoCo’s Book Club
7. Elrich on Hot Mic: “Can I Say the Council is Fact Proof?”
8. MCEA President Responds to MCPS Video
9. Kleine on the Line Again
10. MCPS Releases “Just the Facts” Video

The post about a restaurant not requiring face masks was one of the top five most-read stories in the history of this blog. (That puts some perspective on the relative importance of politics!) Marilyn Balcombe and Sunil Dasgupta deserve congratulations for their excellent and widely read guest posts. Aside from those, the top posts generally reflect the top two stories of the month: MCPS’s reopening decision and the county’s ethics-challenged Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine.

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MoCo Shuts Down Private Schools – Again

By Adam Pagnucco.

Defying an amended state executive order by Governor Larry Hogan, Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles has issued a new order shutting down private schools for in-person instruction through October 1. The new order follows a call with reporters today in which Gayles said county officials were “continuing to evaluate the impact of the governor’s order on the directive that we put out.”

Bring on the lawyers, folks.

The county’s press release appears below.

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Montgomery County Health Officer Issues Amended Directive to Protect Public Health; Prohibiting In-Person Instruction at Nonpublic Schools Until at Least Oct. 1
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020

Reemphasizing the need to protect the health and safety of Montgomery County residents as well as parents, students, teachers and staff from the spread of COVID-19, County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles today issued a new Health Officer Directive and Order that continued to direct nonpublic schools in Montgomery County to remain closed for in-person instruction until at least Oct. 1, 2020. Today’s order, citing the Maryland Code Annotated Health General § 18-208 and COMAR 10.06.01.06, rescinds and replaces the Health Officer Directive and Order Regarding Private and Independent Schools dated July 31, 2020. The new order, which is effective immediately, remains valid until Oct. 1, 2020, or until rescinded, superseded, amended, or revised by additional orders.

County officials continue to base their public health decisions on data and the data and science and at this point, the data does not suggest that in-person instruction is safe for students, teachers and others who work in a school building. There have been increases in transmission rates of COVID-19 in the State of Maryland, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia, particularly in younger age groups, and this step is necessary to protect the health and safety of Montgomery County residents.

Nonpublic schools are defined as any school located in Montgomery County, Maryland that are not public schools. This includes, but is not limited to all private pay schools, schools affiliated with religious institutions, or schools that are otherwise considered to be independent schools. The Order does not apply to programs licensed or regulated by the Maryland Office of Childcare. Those programs were reopened effective July 19, 2020 pursuant to County Executive Order 082-20.

Based on CDC best practices for the reopening of schools, County health officials will continue to monitor the epidemiological surveillance data and that will guide the decision as to when it is safe to reopen nonpublic and public schools.

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Council Attorney: Council Did Not Violate Open Meetings Act

By Adam Pagnucco.

On Tuesday, I wrote a post asking whether the county council had violated the state’s Open Meetings Act by posting two charter amendments on its agenda the morning of their vote. County council attorney Bob Drummer wrote me the email below explaining why the council did not violate the law.

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Adam,

I’m reaching out to you about your Aug. 4 post in Seventh State asking if the Montgomery County Council is in compliance with the Maryland Open Meetings Act because of two potential ballot proposal that were added to the Council agenda and posted on the Council’s web page on the morning of Aug. 4.

Your post misses the point of the Open Meetings Act. The Act requires the Council to provide reasonable notice before conducting an open meeting. The Act goes on to require the Council to post an agenda for the meeting for public viewing if it has been determined at the same time as the notice of the meeting. If an agenda is not determined at the time of the notice, it should be posted at least 24 hours in advance (Md. Code Ann., General Provisions Article, Sec. 3-302.1(a)). Sec. 3-302.1(b) provides an exception for an emergency meeting. It appears that you only read these sections and made some incorrect assumptions from this selective reading.

Let me explain. Notice of the August 4 meeting was posted more than 24 hours before the meeting. The notice included an agenda. The agenda included a discussion and action on 2 possible Charter Amendments concerning the composition of the Council – one by petition and one by Councilmember Glass. In your blog, you complained about the late addition of 2 alternative Charter Amendments proposed by Councilmembers Riemer and Navarro concerning the composition of the Council. First, the public had ample advance notice that the Council was going to discuss possible Charter Amendments concerning the composition of the Council. More importantly, the final provision of the Section you mistakenly relied on, Sec. 3-302.1(e) states:

(e) Alteration of agenda. — Nothing in this section may be construed to prevent a public body from altering the agenda of a meeting after the agenda has been made available to the public.

This section expressly authorizes a public body to alter the agenda of a meeting after the agenda has been posted. The two proposals that you question were just that – alterations of the agenda after it was posted. If your reading of the statute was correct, a public body would never be able to change the agenda at the last minute, and a Councilmember would never be permitted to move to amend a resolution or bill before it at the meeting if notice of the proposed amendment was not provided to the public at least 24 hours in advance. Such a reading would make the Open Meetings Act unworkable. The main purpose of the Open Meetings Act is to ensure that almost all (except for permitted closed meetings) legislative decisions by a public body are made in public. The purpose of the notice and agenda requirement is to ensure that the public has the opportunity to watch (or at least hear) the meeting. The notice and agenda requirement is not designed to hamstring a public body into strictly following a posted agenda without any flexibility to modify it.

The two proposals you question in your post are referenced in the Council’s media advisory that was distributed and posted to the Council’s web page on the evening of Aug. 3. The advisory generally describes the proposals and notes that the Council staff reports will be available on Aug. 4. You can view the advisory here: https://www2.montgomerycountymd.gov/mcgportalapps/Press_Detail.aspx?Item_ID=25673&Dept=1. Moreover, as you reported in your subsequent Aug. 4 post in the Seventh State, the Council did not approve either of the ballot proposals.

I also want to take this opportunity to remind you and your readers that all Council and committee meetings are televised on County Cable Montgomery and are streamed on Facebook and YouTube. In addition, individuals without internet or cable access can listen to Council and committee meetings on the call in line.

As always, we appreciate you following Council deliberations and getting the word out about important public policy issues that impact Montgomery County residents.

Robert H. Drummer
Senior Legislative Attorney
Montgomery County Council

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