Friday, February 6, 2009

Navarro Board of Ed. Breaks Open Meetings Law

On January 30, 2009, the State of Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board issued an opinion that the Montgomery "County Board did violate the Act in its failure to properly complete a written statement of the reason for the closing of the meeting on September 9."

The Open Meetings Compliance Board also found that the Montgomery County Board of Education was "not correct" in their assertion that the complainant bears the burden of proof and that there is a presumption that no violation has occurred.


In response to the filing of this complaint the Montgomery County Board of Education voluntarily changed its procedure for going into a closed session. Since the filing of this complaint, members of the public can now observe the Board voting to go into closed session prior to the Board room doors being closed. The sign stating "Board members and staff only" that is at the entrance to the conference room used for closed sessions is now to be taken down to permit the public to freely enter and observe the vote of the Board to go into closed session.

The Open Meetings Compliance Board cited the MCPS Board of Education for a violation of $10-508(d)(2)(ii) of the Open Meetings Act. The Open Meetings Board opinion states that in order to close a meeting of the MCPS Board of Education, the Board must,

"not simply cite the statutory authority, but must disclose the topic of discussion in order to allow the public to access compliance by comparing the cited authority and report topic."..."Here the written statement provided the public no information except that the meeting was closed, among other reasons, for the County Board to receive legal advice. Thus, in closing the meeting of September 9, the County Board violated $10-508(d)(2)(ii)."
What did the Board of Education fail to disclose on September 9? They failed to disclose that they were going in to a Closed Session to discuss illegal Curricular Fees that are being charged to MCPS families.

Only time will tell if the MCPS Board of Education will comply with this decision. At the time of this violation the Board of Education President was Nancy Navarro. Will the current board, led by President Shirley Brandman comply with the closed meeting disclosure requirements of Maryland law?

3 comments:

  1. Any reason why the BOE has discussion of the Open Meeting violation listed on its agenda for Monday's meeting as a closed session item?

    See http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/boe/meetings/agenda/2008-09/2009-0209/020909.cs.pdf

    Seems as if its not predecisional any more- so the seeking legal advice provision for closing the discussion doesn't apply.

    I find it interesting that MCPS stresses they are in to reteaching, reinforcing, and retesting when it comes to our kids education. This however, seems pretty clear.

    I've been through this with the BOE and MCPS concerning transfers of school land - remember, those items too were done in closed session until I started asking questions and seeking advice from the state's open meeting folks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Here is the Press Released issued after the Closed Session Board of Education meeting on September 9th. Did the Board discuss Policy during the closed session or only receive legal advice?
    ~~~~~~

    Board President Issues Statement on School Fees
    September 9, 2008


    Montgomery County Board of Education


    The following is a statement from
    Ms. Nancy Navarro
    President of the Montgomery County Board of Education:


    The Board of Education met in closed session today with general counsel to discuss legal issues that have been raised in recent weeks concerning the establishment and implementation of various school fees. We asked counsel for advice as part of a continuing effort to examine our policy in this area.

    Our Policy Committee will be meeting again tomorrow to review the monitoring process associated with our current policy and procedures. In addition, the superintendent has informed us that he has asked a staff committee to review existing practices regarding fees. We will continue to keep the community informed regarding this issue.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Read this Compliance Board opinion as well:

    http://www.oag.state.md.us/Opinions/Open2008/6omcb96.pdf

    ... about what the minutes need to contain, and what they need to put on their closing statements.

    ReplyDelete

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