Tag Archives: M-NCPPC

Anderson Excoriates Compliance Board after Caught in (Another) Open Meetings Act Violation

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) just can’t stop violating the Open Meetings Act. This time it involves the Commission, its Executive Committee, the Commission’s Retirement Board, and several of the Retirement Board’s committees. Trustees include MoCo Planning Board member Gerald Cichy and Carrie McCarthy of the MoCo Planning Department. Casey Anderson is currently chair of the M-NCPPC as well as of the MoCo Planning Board.

Their latest decision is linked and posted at the bottom of this post. Here is the summary of the Open Meetings Act Compliance Board’s decision:

As we explain below, we conclude that the Commission and its Executive Committee failed to make sufficiently detailed disclosures to the public before and after meeting in closed sessions. The Commission also violated the Act by engaging in closed-door discussions that exceeded the scope of the statutory provisions that the Commission claimed as authority for excluding the public.

As Chair of the MoCo Planning Board and M-NCPPC, Casey Anderson has been the recipient of an inordinate number of adverse decisions by the Compliance Board. The Montgomery County Council President Gabe Albornoz has also upbraided Anderson and the Planning Board for abuse of its consent agenda and failure to register lobbyists as required by law.

In a letter to the County Council replying to Albornoz’s concerns, Anderson stated “Whenever anyone points out gaps in our procedures, we never hesitate to make improvements.” His contemptuous response to the latest finding by the Compliance Board shows this to be false.

Instead of leading M-NCPPC into figuring out how to comply properly with both the spirit and the letter of the Open Meetings Act, Anderson gave a lengthy diatribe excoriating the Compliance Board for their decision (starts a little before 39 minutes into the video). He says that complying with the Act “would not serve the public well” or “serve the interests of open government.” Anderson even accused the Compliance Board of undermining “public confidence in open government” — a rather bizarre accusation when you’ve just been found in violation of the Open Meetings Act. Again.

I’ve tracked several slap downs of M-NCPPC and the Montgomery County Planning Board here on Seventh State. The Montgomery County Council has also made clear their concern. Anderson, the Planning Board and M-NCPPC don’t care and continue to show contempt for the law. No one on M-NCPPC said a word in response to Anderson’s denunciation. The Planning Board continues to support his approach.

The question now is whether the Council is going to do anything about it or if Anderson is going to continue to ride roughshod over the law, the Council and the public.

Here is a link to the complaint.

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Planning Loses Yet Another Open Meetings Act Case

They do work at it.

Louis Wilen filed a complaint on January 31 that the Olney Town Center Advisory Committee (OTCAC), “a public body chartered by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission” is not adhering to the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.

Notwithstanding Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson’s claim that “Whenever anyone points out gaps in our procedures, we never hesitate to make improvements”, it remains business as usual over at Planning and they fought the claim. In its response to the Open Meetings Compliance Board, it stated that:

[T]he OTCAC is not a public body as defined by the Maryland Open Meetings Act as defined by the Maryland Open Meetings Act, Title 3, General Provisions Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland (2002) (the “Open Meetings Act”), and therefore not subject to its requirements and restrictions. (emphasis in original)

The Open Meetings Compliance Board did not agree, stating “we conclude that the Committee here is a public body subject to the Act” in its opinion explaining how its previous decisions along with the history of OTCAC make this clear. I’ve posted the full opinion below and you can also read it by clicking on this link.

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M-NCPPC Violating Ethics Laws and its own Lobbying Policy

Maryland Public Ethics Law mandates that the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), a bi-county agency which includes the Montgomery and Prince George’s Planning Boards and other departments, require disclosure by lobbyists.

Towards that end, M-NCPPC adopted a policy on lobbying disclosure in 1983, which was amended in 1985. The policy requires lobbyists to register with M-NCPPC and to file a report annually with the Commission. Paid lobbyists should be reporting expenditures on meals, entertainment and gifts to Commissioners or their employees in addition to their compensation and monies spent on lobbying materials and research subject to certain regulations and thresholds.

The current Commission does none of this.

That means that lobbyists before the Planning Boards, which handle decisions with incredible monetary impact, aren’t registering or filing reports. A recent evaluation in by the Office of the General Counsel in response to a citizen complaint, reveals that even the old policy doesn’t fully comply with current law.

You can read M-NCPPC’s Office of the General Counsel’s recent report and review the 1985 policy below. Even their own counsel says that M-NCPPC is way out of compliance: “no lobbying registrations had apparently been filed in recent memory.”

Montgomery and Prince George’s need to wake up. Montgomery has always prided itself on being a squeaky-clean reform county, but its own Planning Board has failed to enforce any of its own or Maryland’s ethics requirements even though its decisions and recommendations can provide many millions in benefits to people invested and involved in property development.

This raises serious questions. Why hasn’t the Commission or either Planning Board done anything to enforce ethics regulations related to lobbying? Why has Planning Board Staff failed to carry out the Board’s adopted policy? Why didn’t the Office of the General Counsel make sure that M-NCPPC was in compliance up until now?

At the end of its report, the Office of the General Council states:

OGC recommends that the Commission promptly complete the process for a substantial overhaul of its lobbying regulations. The Commission’s executive team has made a commitment to revise and adopt new, clarifying lobbying regulations before the end of the 2021 calendar year, and to launch an energetic campaign of public education to introduce them after adoption.

None of that has happened.

The report was supposed to be discussed finally at the December 2021 M-NCPPC Board meeting but was yanked from the agenda at the last minute. In other words, M-NCPPC has already failed to honor its “commitment” to clean up this ethics mess by the end of 2021.

The Montgomery and Prince George’s County Councils, which fund and appoint each county’s Planning Board, need to investigate quickly and ensure that a new, cleaner regime arrives at the Planning Board’s new Wheaton headquarters with officials and planners willing to abide by and to enforce the law.

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