A local Eastport resident recently filed a complaint with the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board (OMCB), accusing the Annapolis Alcohol Beverage Control Board (ABCB) for repeatedly violating the State regulations on open meetings. And the OMCB agreed.
In the complaint (123 pages, see below), Jim Conlon, claimed the ABCB did not properly post an agenda in advance and then modified it after the fact. Additionally, he accused the Board of entering into a Closed Session (private) when it was not allowed. Closed Sessions are only allowed for specific purposes. During this session, a liquor license was approved for a still-under-construction restaurant on Fourth Street, allowing them to serve alcohol until 2 am despite the City’s Code specifically restricting it to 10 pm or 11 pm, depending on the day of the week.
Upon review of the complaint (see below), the Open Meetings Compliance Board partially agreed with the accusations. In their opinion, the City’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board violated the Open Meetings Act in three primary areas:
- Providing an agenda that omitted a known item of business
- Failure to follow required procedures for a closed session
- Failing to provide details in minutes
This opinion places the City of Annapolis “on notice,” and the ABCB must publicly acknowledge receipt of the opinion and the majority of the ABCB members must sign an acknowledgment and return it to the Board.
The Annapolis City Code does not address any additional measures to be taken in light of the OMCB’s opinion, as the infractions do not seem to meet the criteria for removal.
2.04.060 – Suspension or removal.
A.Appointed members of committees, commissions, boards and authorities, other than members of the City Council, may be suspended or removed by the Mayor for cause.
1.”Cause” is hereby defined to mean:
Annapolis City Code
- Concealing or falsifying material information pertaining to the member’s appointment to a committee, commission, board or authority.
- Failing to attend meetings as set forth in Chapter 2.04.050 of this Code.
- Inattention to Sections 2.04.070, 2.04.080, and 2.04.090 of the Annapolis City Code.
- Violation of the lawfully adopted bylaws or rules of a committee, commission, board or authority.
- Changing or moving one’s principal place of residence outside geographic limits established by law for members of a committee, commission, board or authority, or that the member was appointed to represent.
- Holding more positions than are permitted by Section 2.04.040 of the Annapolis City Code.
- Subject of a court-ordered action under Section 3-401 of the Maryland Open Meetings Act (Title 3 of the General Provisions Article of the Maryland State Code);
- Conviction of a crime or pleading nolo contendere to a crime consistent with Section 8-502 of the State Government Article of the Maryland State Code.
- A continuing mental or physical disability of such a nature as to prevent adequate performance of duties (subject to applicable federal or state laws prohibiting discrimination against disabled individuals);
- Malfeasance or abuse of office.
That the complainant, Jim Conlon, has emailed the City Council and asked them to take action against the ABCB based on an interpretation of the City Code and the Board’s bylaws. Conlon believes that the ABCB is in violation of point 4 (above) since the action taken in the Closed Session was deemed improper by the OMCB. The City Code states that the Mayor must report to the Council (quarterly) on any commission, committee, or authority members eligible to be suspended or removed and who and why the Mayor has chosen not to suspend or remove that member. The current ABCB has one vacancy, and the Chair, James Praley is serving his 4th 3-year term on the Board.
The Open Meetings Compliance Board acts only in an advisory capacity. Any further relief must be decided by the Circuit Court and a separate suit would need to be filed.
NOTE: This article has been updated to include a request for action from Jim Conlon.
NOTE 2: This article has been updated to clarify that the Maryland Attorney General’s Office only provides staff and advice to the OMCB. The OMCB is an independent State Agency.