Ocean City Today

Wor. school board violated state open meeting rules

By Kara Hallissey | Feb 22, 2018

(Feb. 23, 2018) The Worcester County Board of Education violated the Maryland Open Meetings Act during six closed sessions from May to November of 2017, school officials announced at Tuesday’s board meeting in Newark.

After receiving a complaint filed by open meetings activist and reporter Craig O’Donnell, the state Open Meetings Compliance Board (OMCB) issued its opinion last week that found that the school board failed to make public all information about closed meetings.

According to the OMCB, Worcester County Public Schools did not give adequate advanced notice of closed session meetings because they were not listed on the main calendar of the school’s website, which has been corrected since the complaint.

The school board’s second violation involved how its meetings are closed. To be in accordance, a vote to close a meeting must take place during an open session and the school board must disclose the topics and the reasons for excluding the public from the discussion.

In addition, the summaries Worcester County provided to the public about closed session meetings were determined to be vague and mostly stated personnel matters were discussed.

The final violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act, was the school board’s failure to include adequate closed-session summaries of administrative functions in its minutes during public sessions.

During the meeting on Tuesday, each board member signed and dated a form that will be sent back to the Attorney General’s office explaining Worcester County Schools has complied with all violations.

“It’s important to always have absolute transparency so the public knows what is happening and all information is readily available,” Superintendent Lou Taylor said.

Over the last several years, according to compliance board records, O’Donnell, who is now with the Dover Post, has filed at least 61 open meetings complaints challenging government meetings procedures throughout Maryland.

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