Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tom McMillen on Open Meetings Act and Confidentiality Agreements

Thomas McMillen is a former member of the House of Representatives (D-Md.), and serves on the University of Maryland Board of Regents. He played on the school’s men’s basketball team from 1970 to 1974.  Mr. McMillen writes about violations of the Maryland Open Meetings Act and about confidentiality agreements that kept stakeholders from participating in the decision to move the school from the ACC to the Big 10. 

The MCPS $2.2 billion dollar Operating Budget is set each year by a secret committee that meets in violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act.  The secret committee requires the participants (MCPS staff, Union representatives and the MCCPTA President) to sign confidentiality agreements so that they will not disclose what goes on in these meetings.  

It's an outrage when the University of Maryland Regents violate the Maryland Open Meetings Act in deciding to move the school from the ACC to the Big 10, but when the exact same violations occur with regard to setting a $2,200,000,000 annual public school budget, no one cares?

Big Ten. Big mistake.
...I believe we need new legislation — the Stakeholder Right-to-Know Act — that would prohibit universities that receive federal funds from executing confidentiality agreements on behalf of their intercollegiate athletic programs, which limit information regarding transactions that should be provided to important stakeholders.
Right now, universities and their boards are captive to a process controlled by the commissioners of the various athletic conferences. Commissioners managing hundreds of millions of dollars are extorting what they need from the universities, and the schools are powerless to stand up to them. We need a national solution to end this practice... 

3 comments:

  1. Two quick comments:

    - UMD moving from the ACC to the Big Ten did not require approval from the USM Board of Regents. A vote was taken for the BOR to endorse the move, but the University could have still moved without the endorsement.

    - The USM has released a statement that everything they did was within the regulations outlined in the Maryland Open Meetings Act. (http://www.usmd.edu/newsroom/news/1162). Dr. Kirwan (Chancellor of the USM) also mentioned in the press event announcing the move to the Big Ten that Maryland's Attorney General was consulted throughout the process and everything they did followed state law.

    Reading over everything the past few days it seems like McMillan is salty about UMD moving away from the conference he played in and is using his position as a Regent to complain.

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    Replies
    1. Peter:

      Do you think that when the Montgomery County Board of Education violates the Maryland Open Meetings Act they immediately confess to the violation?
      The answer to that question is no.

      Whether the Regents had to meet or not has nothing to do with the Open Meetings Act issue. They are a body that is subject to the Open Meetings Act. The first question is whether or not the meeting(s) were covered by the Act.

      As to the alleged approval of their actions by someone in the Attorney General's office, let's see that in writing. No rumor or gossip, let's see the official statement. The Maryland Open Meetings Act Compliance Board is more than happy to put Opinions in writing. They do it all the time. If the Regents are so confident that they complied with the law they will produce the documentation that validates their claim.

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    2. Peter:

      The Open Meetings Compliance Board will give generic advice. The will NOT "bless" or "pre-clear" something a public body intends to do. Neither will their staff attorney.

      The OMCB and its attorney do not "babysit" public bodies. Under the law, the presiding officer is solely responsible for proceeding as the law requires.

      So the press release wants people to believe that Doug Gansler was consulted? Let's see the email or the phone log record.

      The regents have two Asst Atty Generals assigned to them (they're paid with taxpayer dollars even if the athletic program is funded by private donations).

      Which of them gave the advice? Both?

      In the end it's irrelevant, because the responsibility rests with the chair of the public body. In this case it is a Mr. Shea, who apparently works in a high-powered law firm.

      There are two or three other attorneys on the regents, as well as assorted PhDs and Doctors of Divinty. These are bright people. No one spoke up? Apparently not.

      Believe me, Assistant Attorney Generals are perfectly capable of being ignorant of the Open Meetings Act. Furthermore, as "captive lawyers" of a state agency they aren't likely to give advice that will piss off the boss.

      In fact, in response to some complaints filed with the Open Meetings Compliance Board, Asst AG's have advanced spurious arguments attacking the law itself and the character of the complainant ... Concepts bordering on what a judge would call 'frivolous' and what I'd call 'self-serving BS' that any intelligent citizen can see through.

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