Send us tips/photos/videos

[gtranslate]
Search

City council cited in violation of Open Meetings Act

Add Your Heading Text Here

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Posted on: May 9, 2024

In April, a state compliance board found that the Hyattsville City Council violated the Maryland Open Meetings Act during three recent meetings “by using the ‘chat’ feature on a virtual meeting platform to have substantive side conversations that the public could not see.” 

The compliance board’s April 23 opinion notes that during the council’s Feb. 5, Feb. 20 and March 4 virtual meetings, public observers could see an icon indicating that messages were being sent via chat, but they could not see the messages themselves.

According to the opinion, many of the messages between councilmembers related to technical issues (e.g., “Can you hear me?,” “I think the slides are stuck,” etc.) or were purely social (e.g., “Good evening!,” “Guess whose beard is back!!,” etc.). 

However, during each meeting, other messages touched on the substantive issues before the council, such as whether the city should use an app to charge for street parking (e.g., “Who has coins”) or how to handle participation on city committees (e.g., “Also the distance, the further away from the city building the less participation”).

The state’s Open Meetings Act requires that local public bodies, like city councils, hold meetings in public, provide adequate notice of such meetings, and allow the public to inspect meeting minutes, according to the state attorney’s website. According to the act, “Whenever a public body meets in open session, the general public is entitled to attend.” 

In its April 23 opinion, the board referenced a 2020 decision, in which “we concluded that a public body violates this duty when at least two of its members exchange electronic messages during a public meeting on business that the body is considering at the time.”

The Open Meetings Act Compliance Board issues advisory opinions in response to written complaints; its three members are appointed by the governor.

The violation carries no fine but requires a public acknowledgment, which Mayor Robert Croslin will provide at the May 6 council meeting, according to Deputy City Administrator Laura Reams. To ensure future compliance, the city has removed the online chat function from all future virtual city council and committee meetings, Reams said; the city will also continue to provide relevant training opportunities. 

Share:

Facebook
Threads
Twitter

The Streetcar Suburbs Spotlight

Local news and events straight to your inbox

Free! Cancel anytime.

Have a tip?

Send us tips/photos/videos

Related Posts

Laurel Mainstreet Festival Delights

On May 11, 2024, Laurel gathered to celebrate local businesses with a day full of fun. There was a parade as well as vendors and...

Local Results from the May 14, 2024 Elections

On May 14, 2024 people across Maryland flocked to the polls to vote in the state’s primary elections. U.S. Senate candidate Angela Alsobrooks won the...

County schools grapple with lead in drinking water

By SAM GAUNTT As many as 150 of Prince George’s County’s 209 public schools have lead in at least some water faucets, pipes and hoses,...