Elkton Town Meeting, August 11, 2010 – Mayor Fisona called for a closed meeting to discuss “personnel” at the end of the workshop. Unanimously concurring, the board voted to go behind closed doors for the sole purpose of discussing employee issues. This is the second consecutive time this body has ushered the public out to discuss town workers. Last session, the assistant administrator’s position was eliminated in order to “reduce administration cost.” After the layoff, Town Administrator Lewis George stated he did not believe additional workforce reductions were pending.
This entire situation causes us to wonder about Elkton’s compliance with open meeting rules. Officials seem to go behind closed doors more frequently than their counterparts. (Of course, they also have lots more legal action going on.) When they do, the board usually conducts business without providing justification beyond simply restating a section of the regulations. An Attorney General’s ruling says that reason beyond citing the law must be provided to the public. The past two sessions, the elected leadership unanimously agreed to shut out people while they discussed personnel matters. The Maryland Open Meetings Law requires that nearly every deliberation of public interest be done in the public view, while closed sessions are allowed only in limited cases for specific reasons. Elected officials should insist on the strictest compliance with these rules. Each individual commissioner is responsible for adherence with the law for they have to sign a form showing that the town was in compliance with the Open Meetings Act as they go into an executive session to conduct public business. The decision to reverse the long-time recording practice, which had required months of public debate, was reversed without a board discussion, as far as we know.