Information from Thursday, October 26, 2017 MMAA meeting at Clyde's in Columbia.
The Thursday, October 26, 2017 MMAA meeting was held at Clyde’s Restaurant in Columbia.
As an upcoming state legislation overview, Brynja noted she was on a legislative task force to consider the issue of tax sales for unpaid water bills, where she also serves on a “Water Subcommittee.” She noted the task force resulted from proposed legislation to change state processes for tax sales, to require a municipality or county to sell a deed, thus putting the onus on the local government to search the title. She noted the current system isn’t broken, and changing the process could complicate efforts to address blight as well.
Candace Donoho, MML Director of Government Relations noted the MML legislative priorities for the 2018 General Assembly session included restoration of Highway User Revenues and to amend the Public Information Act to provide clear authority to not release email addresses and phone numbers of residents, which may be provided for local newsletters or emergency alerts. She also noted MML will work to protect the right to assert local control over the siting and installation of wireless poles and antennas, and to impose a fee for permit review and lease of right of way space. For those concerned with Phase 2 of the MS 4 permits, Candace noted the EPA had pushed the deadline for issuing such permits to March 2018; she also noted a potential proposal mandating campaign financing for all municipalities, requiring all of us to enforce state standards. Municipal elections have been traditionally handled by municipalities independently, and most do not require campaign financing rules and restrictions as they consider themselves too small to do so.
Brynja asked for any suggestions for future speakers, to allow us to plan ahead for future meetings. After lunch, Brynja introduced Ann MacNeille, Assistant Attorney General with the Opinions and Advise Division and who serves as counsel to the Open Meetings Compliance Board. Ann first noted a few recent changes to the Open Meetings Act, including adding a requirement that agendas be provided reasonably in advance, specifying closed meeting processes, and requiring more training. As to training, Ann said boards and commissions all need to designate a member in order to have the option to close a meeting, and that the change to the law had not altered the training requirement in itself, even as it had been codified in a way that might create confusion. She noted in many cases General Assembly interest often appears to be driven by anecdotes, rather than identified problems, and their proposals are increasingly detailed and very specific. She also noted the reality that the Open Meetings Act applies at all levels, including to the General Assembly, and the importance of informing them how new proposals could impact municipalities. She also noted legislators are often asking the Open Meetings Compliance Board to undertake active monitoring for compliance, which she explains would be practically difficult with such a limited budget and limited staff, including only a ¼ position for administrative support.
Ann noted that 2 of the 3 Board members were attorneys familiar with local government, but that both complaints and the responses were more aggressive than in the past. While in earlier years a local government’s attorney may have simply indicated they have counseled staff to correct any errors, more typically arguments are now made to show there was no violation at all. Ann also indicated that the more public nature of the violations (and that violations must be publicly acknowledged by the body found to be in violation) has certainly added motivation to more aggressively argue the issues.
As to closing meetings, Ann advised that both a citation for one (or more) of the fourteen specific exemptions must be cited, as well as the actual reason for the closing. While the reason for closing doesn’t need to disclose all details which may be confidential, such as employee discipline, a general description must be provided, and the closed meeting must be limited to those purposes. She emphasized that closing the meeting is always a discretionary vote, and can thus only be closed after such a vote. Some questions were raised about emails, and Ann said this remains a gray area, with the emphasis on requiring open meetings for contemporaneous discussions, underscoring the goal of the Open Meetings Act to enter the public can observe the deliberations of a public body.
Brynja thanked Ann again for her presentation, and with no further issues for the good of the order, the meeting was adjourned at 1:55 p.m.
The Monday, June 26, 2017 MMAA meeting was held at the MML
Summer Convention, in Room 210 at the Convention Center in Ocean City,
Maryland. Meredith Mishaga, Director of Foreclosure Administration with the State's Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation gave us an update on recent changes in Maryland law related to the registry. Margaret Witherup, Member of Gordon Feinblatt, LLC which has represented local governments on stormwater and environmental issues, gave a presentation on Phase 2 of the MS 4 stormwater management permits which the Maryland Department of the Environment is now issuing. As a brief legislative update, Lynn Board, MMAA’s Legislative Committee representative, noting that with changes to the State Ethics Law this year – which were targeted to General Assembly members – similar changes could be required to local ethics laws based on the “substantially equivalent” requirement. She reported that MML and MACo provided letters to the State Ethics Commission asking that changes not be required, given the focus on the General Assembly, and several also attended the June 15, 2017 meeting of the State Ethics Commission where it did seem members will consider local concerns.
Information from the Thursday, May 4, 2017 meeting at Fisherman's Inn at Kent Narrows.
Click here for approved minutes.
The Thursday, May 4, 2017 MMAA meeting was held at Fisherman’s Inn at Kent Narrows. We had a presentation on the Public Information Act, by Lisa Kershner, Ombudsman and Karen Federman-Henry, Assistant Attorney General who serves as the PIA Compliance Board counsel as well as counsel to the Ombudsman. Karen noted the Ombudsman had a broad ability to mediate disputes on request from the person asking for records or the custodian, and that the Ombudsman can mediate on any PIA issue. However, the Board’s jurisdiction is more limited to fees. Lisa as Public Access Ombudsman distributed a report for the first 12 months, from April 1, 2016 through March 31, 2017, which is available here. Karen has also made available a PowerPoint presentation she made on her work to the MSBA State and Local Government Section at their Law Day on May 5, 2017, and it is available here.
On MMAA issues, Bylaws amendments making a few clarifications were unanimously approved and will be presented to the MML Board of Directors for their review and final approval.
Also, members unanimously approved officers for 2017/2018: Brynja Booth for President, Lynn Board for Vice President, Frank Johnson for Secretary and Jason DeLoach for Treasurer. We also received an update on legislative issues from Candace Donoho, MML’s Director of Government Relations and Lynn Board, MMAA's Legislative Committee representative.
Information from Thursday, February 9 meeting at
Harry Browne’s in Annapolis.
Click here for approved minutes.
The Thursday, February 9, 2017 MMAA lunch meeting was held at Harry Browne’s, 66 State Circle in Annapolis.
The meeting included updates on legislation and MML priorities, as well as a report by Lynn Board on the creation of the Coalition on Small Cell Facilities regarding the FCC rulemaking proposal on small cell and wireless facility installations. The meeting presentation was a discussion on transgender rights in Maryland by attorney Miriam Sievers of Silber, Perlman, Sigman & Tilev, P.A. and Patrick Paschall, Executive Director of Free State Justice in Maryland, with a focus on terminology, federal law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (employment), Title IX (schools), the Fair Housing Act, Affordable Care Act, the Prisoner’s Rape Elimination Act of 2012, and the Violence Against Women Act, and for Maryland, the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014.
Information from Thursday, September 15, 2016 Joint Meeting with the Municipal Clerks Association
At the Kentlands Mansion, 320 Kent Square Road, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20878
Click here for approved minutes
The Thursday, September 15, 2016 MMAA meeting was held at the Kentlands Mansion in the City of Gaithersburg, 320 Kent Square Road, and was a joint meeting with the Maryland Municipal Clerks Association. The meeting was conducted under a joint agenda including introductions, a report from both the Clerks and Attorneys, and presentations by MMAA members. Several noted that they believe this may have been the first joint meeting, and expressed the hope that the groups would continue periodic joint meetings.
Frederick City Attorney Saundra Nichols and Assistant City Attorney Rachel Depo (also MMAA Vice-President) made a presentation on the Open Meetings Act. Their PowerPoint presentation can be accessed here.
Information from Monday, June 27, 2016 MMAA Meeting at the MML Summer Convention in Ocean City.
Click here for approved minutes
Information from Thursday, May 5, 2016 MMAA Spring Meeting at Fisherman's Inn at Kent Narrows.
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Judges Dale Cathell and Glenn Harrell of the Maryland Court of Appeals provided members with a review of several recent Court of Appeals decisions, as well as a 27-page summary of all decisions relevant to municipalities which was distributed and is available by clicking here.
Information from Wednesday, March 16, 2016 MMAA Telephone Conference on Small Cell and Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS).
A group of members joined in a telephone conference to discuss new changes in telecommunications, largely to accommodate the widespread use of smart phones and similar devices. We thank Kimberly Min, MMAA member and Whiteford, Taylor and Preston for hosting the conference call.
The issue of telecommunications is now a major local issue, after changes in technology and the law. Municipalities are increasing being approached by providers and infrastructure firms for permission to install small cell facilities and larger DAS facilities, often on rights of way. Sometimes they will seek to install these items on buildings, on pole, on street lights, or next to other antennas. These represent relatively new technological advances that broaden the wireless cell coverage. And a relatively recent FCC order mandates, in most cases, that local governments allow installations that will expand coverage in this way.
During the discussion, led by Victor Tervala, Baltimore City Chief Solicitor, John Lyons, Anne Arundel County Cable Administrator, and Frank Johnson, Gaithersburg Assistant City Attorney, speakers pointed out how the new FCC "shot clocks" or permit deadlines of 60, 90 or 150 days apply, but also how these timelines do not apply until a completed application has been submitted. Click here for more detailed notes on the discussion. Generally, with changes in technology, municipalities should expect to hear from a provider or infrastructure provider. Some can be aggressive, even though most are willing to work with municipalities -- but it is always important to know your rights.
In most cases, a first step will be entering a contract, either a franchise agreement or right of way agreement - or both. Part of that agreement will include allowable fees, and the municipalities preference for use of public land or public facilities, such as City or Town street lights. Click here for a recent Baltimore City ordinance laying out franchise fee requirements for these facilities.
Permit denials are in most cases limited, but safety, appearance and specific placement (if a workable alternative is offered) can all be considerations.
In addition to a contract or agreement, as discussed during the conference, municipalities do need to ensure they have zoning in place to allow these installations -- as well as impose reasonable restrictions. Municipalities also need to have a permitting process in place to accommodate the deadlines and ensure applicants receive communication as quickly as possible. Click here for a sample draft highlighting recent zoning ordinance and permitting changes for the City of Gaithersburg.
We expect this will be an ongoing issue, especially as technology continues to change, and this conference and these materials highlight some key steps municipalities can and should take.
Information from the Thursday, March 3, 2016 MMAA Meeting at Harry Browne's in Annapolis
Click here for approved minutes.
Tiffany Harvey, Deputy Counsel for Civil Rights and Legislative Affairs for the Office of the Attorney General, spoke about Attorney General Brian Frosh’s legislative initiatives but emphasized the August 2015 Guidance on preventing discriminatory profiling for law enforcement agencies. She said that the Attorney General took the initiative to develop uniform state standards as a guide for all police agencies in Maryland to follow – making Maryland the first state to follow similar guidance put in place by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in 2014. The Guidelines are on the Attorney General’s website but you can also click here for a copy.
Information from the Thursday, October 8, 2015 MMAA meeting at the Café Deluxe Restaurant in Gaithersburg,
Click here for approved minutes
Information from the June 29, 2015 MMAA Meeting at the MML Convention Click here for approved minutes
The Monday, June 29, 2015 MMAA meeting was held at the Ocean City Convention Center in Room 210.
Meredith Mishaga, Director of Foreclosure Administration with the Commissioner of Financial Regulation (part of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation/DLLR), gave us a powerpoint about the Maryland Foreclosed Property Registry, which was created by the General Assembly in 2012 to provide local jurisdictions with information on current ownership of foreclosed homes.
Information from the May 21, 2015 MMAA Meeting
The Thursday, May 21, 2015 meeting was held at the Fisherman's Inn, Kent Narrows, and had several speakers.
Adam Snyder, Chief Council, Opinions and Advice for the Maryland Attorney General, spoke about several upcoming changes in the Public Information Act after the General Assembly. Changes include creation of a Public Information Act Board, with limited jurisdiction (only to address fees in excess of $350) but broad power to order fee reductions; an Ombudsman in the Attorney General's office with broad oversight to address any issues of concern raised by either a person requesting records or the local government, but no formal authority to order any solution. He also noted fees will be limited to actual costs, and that the requesting party's ability to pay can be a separate waiver consideration. Other changes include the requirement of a 10-working-days response if responding takes longer, with an estimated time for completion and a cost estimate, and the need for local governments to identify a contact for all requests, which can also be divided by department. Local governments also must note, at least on their website, which (if any) documents are available on demand. Overall, Mr. Snyder advised reaching out to requestors with a response or update, as soon as possible.
Tim Ailsworth of LGIT also spoke on the impact of Local Government Tort Claims Act changes, in which awards and permitted claim times were all doubled (awards from $200,000 to $400,000, and each occurrence from $400,000 to $800,000, with the time allowed to file a claim increasing from 6 months from date of occurrence to one year). He indicated this will result in an increase of costs by about 5% for municipalities self-ensured through LGIT.
Tom Curtin, MML's Government Relations and Research Associate, also spoke about the General Assembly, noting two MML priorities were approved, including the Governor's proposal for Highway User Revenues , granting municipalities $19 million out of $25 million added by the budget and the land use bill clarifying that legislative bodies can amend Master Plan recommendations from their Planning Commissions, but must hold a public hearing if such changes are made. He also noted the bill regarding double taxation was passed as a local bill for Frederick County rather than statewide, but would require a resolution and could serve as a sample for future statewide legislation.
Officer elections, to start with the new MML Board of Directors (at the MML Convention next month) were also held, and those nominated were unanimously approved. Thus John Barr will continue serving as President; Brynja Booth will serve as Vice-President; Jason DeLoach will continue as Treasurer; and Frank Johnson will serve as Secretary. Elissa Levan indicated she wished to continue serving as MMAA representative on the MML Board of Directors, and Lynn Board wishes to remain on the MML Legislative Committee, and members also unanimously supported their continuation.
Information from Winter/Early Spring 2015 MMAA Meeting
The Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 meeting was held in Annapolis. Karen Kruger, partner with Funk and Bolton PA who also serves as counsel for the Maryland Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Association, spoke on the issues and impacts related to the use of police body-worn cameras. She noted several bills had been filed in the General Assembly this year which would not mandate the use of such cameras but would impose a number of requirements on their use. Issues with police body-worn cameras include privacy, safety and the costs of retaining the data. Additionally, the costs of reviewing and organizing the data can also be substantial. And in many cases, the cameras themselves are not always dependable, and even when they are, the actual recording can be difficult to follow. LGIT has establishing a pilot testing project and several jurisdictions are making initial use of these cameras, so we will all have the chance to learn from their experience. Even so, it's clear the privacy, safety and cost concerns will continue.
Click here for an article on police body-worn cameras entitled "Lessons from the Early Adopters," which Karen handed out at the meeting.
Lynn Board, MMAA's representative on the MML Legislative Committee, also updated members. As to MML priorities, the $19 million of HUR funding for municipalities, which the Governor included in his budget proposal, is likely to be retained with approval from both houses; the land use bill clarifying legislative authority to approve and amend master plan recommendations appears likely to pass; and a financial disclosure bill was not favorably reported. Otherwise, public information act amendments are likely to be approved, establishing a Public Information Compliance Board, requiring responses within 10 days and allowing Board review of fees over $350, after several amendments proposed by MML.
In MMAA business, no further nominations for 2015-2016 officers were received and membership voting will, per the Bylaws, be completed at the May meeting. Persons nominated for each of the positions are John Barr for President, Brynja Booth for Vice President, Jason DeLoach for Treasurer, and Frank Johnson for Secretary. Additionally, Elissa Levan has indicated she wishes to remain as the MML Board of Directors representative, and Lynn Board wishes to remain as the MML Legislative Committee representative.
Information from the MMAA 2014 Fall Meeting:
The December 4, 2014 meeting, held in Annapolis, included an update from Candace Donoho, MML's Government Relations Director, on MML's legislative priorities for the 2015 General Assembly session, including restoring Highway User Revenues (HUR), clarifying the approval process for municipal master plans and protecting some ethics disclosures (particularly involving spouses and dependent children) from public disclosure. approval issue (as to whether legislative bodies have final approval authority and can amend a planning commission recommendation) and required ethics disclosures. MML has adopted both as part of its legislative priorities for clarifications and/or corrections.
Lynn Board, MMAA’s representative on the MML legislative committee, Debra Daniel, City Attorney for Rockville, and Tom McCarron, Mt. Airy’s town attorney, who a few years ago filed a request for an AG opinion in 2012 on the master plan approval issue, discussed the question of whether Maryland's Land Use Article allows legislative bodies to amend or remand a master plan recommendation from the planning commission, or simply require either outright approval or rejection. Click here for materials the Panel prepared, which includes:
* A copy of the relevant Maryland Annotated Code sections (both the current Land Use Article and prior Article 66B);
* The June 13, 2014 letter from the Department of Planning to the City of Rockville; and
* The November 18, 2014 Attorney General opinion to the Town of Mount Airy.
Information from the MMAA Spring 2014 Meeting:
At the May 8, 2014 MMAA Spring meeting at Fisherman's Inn at Kent Narrows, Judge Glenn T. Harrell, Jr. and returned Judge Dale R. Cathell joined us to discuss notable cases. Click here for Judge Harrell's summary of recent decisions which he discussed at the meeting.
Court Summary for MMAA Spring Meeting