Save the Date: The next MMAA lunch meeting will be on Monday, June 26, 2017 at the MML Summer Convention at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City.
We will welcome Maggie Witherup, of the law firm of Gordon, Feinblatt, who will speak on current issues regarding MS4 permitting in municipalities. We will also discuss current issues facing municipalities and potential future meeting topics and speakers.
Information from the Thursday, May 4, 2017 meeting at Fisherman's Inn at Kent Narrows.
The Thursday, May 4, 2017 MMAA meeting was held at Fisherman’s Inn at Kent Narrows.
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 they had been in place for a year or less, after being approved by legislation in 2015. She 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. She noted that requesting mediation can “stop the clock” for a public information act response, allowing time to mediate the dispute, and that with her efforts and difficult requests can be managed by agreement. Both agreed that the most serious problems can occur when a PIA request has no response, and when there is a lack of communication, and that reaching out to the Ombudsman can prevent more serious complaints.
Both Lisa and Karen noted coordination between the Ombudsman and Compliance Board, and that they are planning to provide more information on the Attorney General’s website and, for the Ombudsman, on the Maryland website. As to fees, Karen noted that while the first two hours of staff time are exempted, any additional actual costs can be collected, including additional staff time and any outside consultation or contractor fees, as they represent actual costs. Lisa noted that mediation efforts are generally informal, often included a telephone call with an emphasis on working to resolve the dispute. Karen finally noted that the Attorney General’s interim report draft was available and that comments were due by June 30, 2017, and that a final report was due at the end of the year. In the meantime, Karen has 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, President Booth presented the proposal for changes to the MMAA bylaws, which had been sent to all members in accordance with Article VI of the Bylaws. The changes included typographical corrections, clarifying that all officers, the MML Board and Legislative Committee representative were all executive committee members and could be replaced in the event of a vacancy, and clarifying that MMAA membership is open to all attorneys providing legal services to municipalities, whether town or city staff, or members or associates of a firm. Ernie Crofoot moved approval of the amendments, seconded by Lynn Board, and the amendments were unanimously approved. The new bylaws will be presented to the MML Board of Directors for their review and final approval.
Also, President Booth announced that nominations had been received for all positions for 2017-2018 – Brynja Booth for President, Lynn Board for Vice President, Frank Johnson for Secretary and Jason DeLoach for Treasurer, and asked if there were any other nominations from the floor. None were offered, and she announced that nominations were closed, to which there were no objections. Fred Sussman moved to approve the nominees as officers for 2017/2018, which was seconded by Suellen Ferguson and unanimously approved by members.
As an update on legislative issues, Candace Donoho, MML’s Director of Government Relations, provided an MML update on key legislation considered during the General Assembly session. She first noted that as to MML priorities, the FY 2018 state budget did not restore the Highway User Revenue (HUR) formula, but did add $20.1 million to the existing $7.3 million, adding up to about 60% of the former amount before the 2010 changes. She expects full restoration may be possible next yearand predicted this will continue to be the major MML priority. On another MML priority, storm water management, involving counties paying municipal fees, legislation to clarify requirements statewide made progress but in the Senate was assigned to two committees – and while approved by the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, did not receive a recommendation from Budget and Taxation, based primarily on concerns with the impact on the state. The chair of the House Environment and Transportation Committee has indicated a commitment to pursue this next year. Finally, efforts to enhance utility coordination and cooperation, particularly utilities tearing into public streets and roads with little warning, or approval of their work, Candace indicated that while no bills were passed, efforts are under way to increase their communication with municipalities and that next year could see further efforts, which may or may not include legislation.
On other issues, Candace noted legislation passed to forgive municipalities for the collective amount of about $16 million, which had erroneously been paid to them based on Comptroller errors in calculating income taxes. Two bills passed regarding foreclosures, one requiring an expedited foreclosure process for abandoned properties and another more speedy public notice of new owners. A Bay Restoration Funds bill passed to expand the use of collected funds for second-level treatment plant upgrades, and a bill was passed requiring municipalities to provide notice to special event organizers of recycling requirements. Three areas in which bills did not pass include limiting the ability to collect past due water bills, imposing hotel/motel taxes on Airbnb rentals; and increasing Forest Conservation replacement requirements to a 1 to 1 ratio from the current 1 to .25. Candace noted the issues are likely to recur in the next legislative session. Bill Jorch, MML’s Government Relations Associate, reported that other bills passed included: House Bill 1, requiring sick and safe leave for employees, with detailed new requirements; adding municipalities to those protected by the False Claim Act; authorizing municipalities to increase residency requirements as a local option for upper-level staff; and requiring the Maryland Environmental Service to allow collective bargaining, which may increase municipal costs. A bill allowing courts to impose attorneys’ fees for constitutional claims was defeated – as it ran out of time before Sine Die – but may return next year, and bill addressing public information act requirements for police body-worn cameras also failed to pass.
Lynn Board, MMAA’s Legislative Committee representative, reported on three key issues. First, she noted a bill on the Open Meetings Act was passed which will now require at least one member of any public body that goes into closed session to have training. With an effective date of July 1, this will require many training requirements in a short amount of time, and she asked MMAA members to work with the Academy for Excellence to support training panels statewide to meet this new training requirement. She also reported that with passage of the Public Integrity Act, making changes in ethics requirements for state legislators, some changes will be required in municipal ethics laws as well based on the “substantially equivalent” requirement. The State Ethics Commission will be advising us on this, and she noted a June 15, 2017 Ethics Committee meeting, which Candace and Lynn will discuss with Ernie Crofoot and Suellen Ferguson. Finally, Lynn noted that the Federal Communications Commission will be issuing proposed regulations greatly restricting government ability to limit installation of small cell and wireless facilities, including in rights of way and on municipal property, and that a short comment period is likely to be provided. She indicated that the Smart Cities Coalition would be working to coordinate comment, and Bill Jorch also noted MML is working with the National League of Cities on the issue.
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.
Click here for approved minutes.
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. Her powerpoint presentation can be viewed by clicking here. And if you want to review the brief "quick fact" pamphlet, click here. As she described, these are homes which can fall into disrepair during the foreclosure process, when they are usually vacant. It may be difficult to find a responsible party to address civil code and maintenance concerns (which may include tall grass or needed home repairs).
The Registry isn't a complete solution, but can help local governments identify purchasers of residential property. The registry requirement kicks in at the time of the foreclosure sale, and requires at least initial registration within 30 days after the sale . Information should include the new owner, status, who accepts legal service and who is responsible for maintenance, among other things. There's a $50 fee, and while the Commissioner of Financial Regulation has no specific enforcement authority, the fee is increased to $100 if the registry is late; also, Director Mishaga noted local governments can require registry compliance and enforce it through the municipal infraction process, with fines or even abatement orders.
Director Mishaga noted that this information is not public, and municipal staff need to register via the Registry website to gain access to the information; see the attached (click here) for further information about the Registry. For attorneys who aren't municipal staff, a statement or letter from the city or town is needed before we can access the data. She also noted disclosure is limited, as this is considered private information. Thus, we can only share it with municipal staff, the HOA or condo association where the property is part of a commonly-owned community, or a person living on the same street.
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