Commissioners Made Decision to Hire the Lobbying Firm, G. S. Proctor, Behind Closed Doors

To hire lobbyist G. S. Proctor, the Cecil County Board of Commissioners closed its public meeting and went into an executive session on Feb. 16.  After discussing the matter with the firm’s representatives behind closed doors, the Commissioners agreed to enter into a contract to have the Prince Georges County based firm oppose two bills in Annapolis.

According to the county statement about the closed meeting, the board moved into a closed session for the following reasons:

  • Personnel matter
  • Consult with counsel to obtain legal advice; and
  • “Before a contract is awarded or bids are opened, discuss a matter directly related to a negotiating strategy or the contents of a bid or proposal, if public discussion or disclosure would adversely impact the ability of the public board to participate in the competitive bidding or proposed process

Editor’s Note

We’re still working on this fast moving story, but want to get this part of it out.  We’ll have an editorial opinion on it shortly since the Maryland Public Open Meetings Act provides standards and guidelines for closing meetings.   One reason you may close a meeting is if you’re in a competitive bid or quote process, where “public disclosure would adversely impact the ability of the public body to participate in the competitive bidding or proposal process.”  This doesn’t seem to have been a competitive bid, but we’ll get more information

This also reminded us of a piece we wrote months ago about closed meetings not going unnoticed in Kent County.  That weekly newspaper always makes a point to cover closed meetings and periodically writes editorials about the need to maintain as much transparency as possible.  The Kent County News also files complaints when it feels the doors are being closed on public business, which is helpful for those covering local government news.  If it weren’t for the CCYR and the political-circle talkers, we would never have known about this closed meeting.

We’re also sure the CCYR will have lots more news on this., from its vantage point.

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4 responses to “Commissioners Made Decision to Hire the Lobbying Firm, G. S. Proctor, Behind Closed Doors

  1. I find it interesting how often the Commissioner’s hide behind the excuse of personnel matters when going into closed meetings that, coincidentally, yield controversial decisions. Exactly how many employees report directly to the Commissioners? I would think that very few don’t fall directly under the chain of comman of Al Wein (who I’m told does an excellent job). This excuse seems to come up far too often considering that we aren’t seeing any changes in high level personnel or their duties.

  2. Bob this matter of the closed door meeting is what really has Someone Noticed’s attention. After dealing with the Mayor and Comm of Elkton we learned the value of utilizing the FOIA and Open Meetings Acts to acquire insight that the commissioners weren’t handing out from those closed door sessions.

    The Comm. cite three reasons for going into a closed session and we wonder how these three things apply.

    1. A personnel matter to hire a lobbyist! From our standpoint, we don’t see that one. If it was a personnel matter why would you have the lobbyist present for a confidential human resources related issue that must be sensitive.
    2. Competitive contract bidding where public insight would harm process. How many competitive bids did they get for lobbyist to represent them in Annapolis;
    3. To consult with legal counsel — Gettting that legal consultation, while working on the competitive bid process with the sole source supplier you’re going to hire, seems unsual. Seems to me if it’s a confidential matter requiring confidential consultation with your attorney, you wouldn’t want outsiders to hear it either.

    Of course they could be answers to these, but based on the initial presentation of info, those are the questions we have.
    That’s one thing I like about the Kent Co News. Every time the board there closes a meeting it gets a story in the paper, including the reason the board said it was going to close the session. Then, when they disagree, they’ll write an editorial about open meetings and the value for the public discussion. Frequently enough they file complaints. Those sorts of things help keep a balance in government.

    If it were not for the reporting of the Young Republicans (and all those rumors around town), we’d never know that from reading the paper.

  3. Great explanation, Mike! Your reporting and commentary always gets to the heart of the matter. All stories are presented in a logical and detached manner, without regard to anyone’s agenda.

    I also don’t believe that hiring a consultant can be deemed a personnel matter. It falls under the guise of contractual services, just as it would if someone is hired to pave a road.

  4. Thanks Bob. Really appreciate it. We’re such an underserved market here Someone Noticed wants to try to fill a void by presenting local political news, making sure we cover it from both sides. Periodically we’ll add our own editorial thoughts, but deliver the straight news story too.

    And thanks for the comments about the explanations and clear reporting. Sometimes we wonder, since we do most of these things quickly.

    As for the personnel matter, fully agree.

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