Greenbelt in Compliance with Open Meetings Act
CITY FOUND TO NOT HAVE VIOLATED THE MARYLAND OPEN MEETINGS ACT
Earlier this summer, the City of Greenbelt was notified that a complaint against the City Council was being filed with the State of Maryland stating that the City had violated the Open Meetings Act by not posting any minutes for the Advisory Planning Board on its website for 2017. The notification of the complaint was the first time that the City was made aware that the minutes were missing. No request by the complainant for the minutes of these meetings was ever made directly to the City of Greenbelt for these minutes.
Once the City of Greenbelt was made aware by the filing of the complaint that the minutes were missing, it was immediately investigated by the liaison to the Advisory Planning Board, Director of Planning and Community Development, Terri Hruby, that the missing minutes were located in a folder on the computer of a former City employee. The failure to provide those minutes to the City Clerk was an oversight on the part of that former employee, as she was finalizing the many projects that she was working on in order to pass them on to the person who would be doing her job in the future.
On August 22, 2018, the State of Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board sent a formal letter to the City of Greenbelt. “We see no sign that the board selectively posted its minutes, purposefully delayed posting them or denied the complainant the opportunity to inspect them. Further, the minutes are now posted, and some were posted quickly anyway. Given these circumstances, we find that the oversight did not rise to the level of a violation of the Act.
“In conclusion, we find that neither the board nor the Council violated the Act. Also, we ask members of the public to seek information from public bodies before invoking our procedures. Here, a visit to City Hall or a Public Information Act request would likely have yielded the minutes, and brought the oversight to staff’s attention, more efficiently than this complaint.”
The City of Greenbelt has implemented several new ways in which to keep the City of Greenbelt constituents informed. Earlier this year, a robust notification system, powered by Gov Delivery, has made it easy to sign up for all types of different notifications from the City of Greenbelt. In addition, the City heavily uses many different social media platforms and will be launching a new, more interactive website the week of September 17, 2018.
The City prides itself in providing information to the citizens in a number of different ways. “We are always looking to improve the way we communicate to all our residents. Suggestions on communication improvements are always welcome and encouraged,” stated Public Information and Communications Coordinator, Beverly Palau.
Regardless, if there is a question that you have, or something you can’t find, the City encourages you to call the City Office at 301-474-8000 and simply ask.