Housing Opportunities Commission Told to Open Committee Meetings to Public

The Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board ruled Nov. 2 that the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County is subject to the open meetings act and that the commissioners have violated it by not opening committee meetings to the public.

The state board detailed that the HOC, which is a public body created by state law, violated the act “whenever they met in closed session to perform a function subject to the Act.”

The board followed up on a complaint alleging that three committees have been in violation because they didn’t invite the public to observe the meetings. The HOC had argued, according to the state board, that the open meetings act only applies to the entire commission and not the three committees, referring to them as informal committees.

But the state board said that the committees dealing with the budget, finance and audits must hold open meetings. “Accordingly, we conclude that the BF&A Committee has violated the Act by meeting, apparently for years, without providing to the public the opportunity to observe its conduct of public business,” it noted in the four-page ruling.

It made the same determination for the development and finance committee as well as the legislative committee.

HOC was requested to designate someone from each of those three committees to participate in training.

To ensure the HOC complies with the ruling Maryland Delegate Al Carr, who represents the 18th District, introduced a bill for the 2021 legislative session. That bill, which was assigned to the Education, Elections and Housing Committee, limits the circumstances under which the HOC of Montgomery County or one of its committees may meet in closed session.

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