Wednesday, November 12, 2008

BoE need not be present to win! Phoning it in!!!!!


Actually, after Tuesday it is going to be BoE members need not be present to VOTE!

That's right sports fans. After Tuesday, MCPS Board of Education members need not attend BoE meetings. So you turn on Channel 34 or your computer to watch a live BoE meeting and seats can be empty! MCPS BoE members will be able to participate and VOTE via speaker phone! What a great way to avoid those nasty votes when you really don't want to have to sit in front of the Superintendent and raise your hand! Now they will just be able to phone it in!

Here is what is happening: On Tuesday, the BoE will vote on a new Operations Handbook. In the handbook is a new section that will be voted into effect on Tuesday if all goes according to plan. Forget about the rule that says policy matters have to lay on the table for 10 days. This major change to the BoE is set to be discussed AND voted on in one meeting. (That keeps a lid on public comment to major changes like this.) The change will allow up to 3 BoE members per meeting to participate and vote via speaker phone. Here is the text of the change.

Members of the public: Do members of the public get to "phone in" public comment from now on?

You have less than 24 hours to comment on this proposed change to the MCPS Board of Education.



Members of the Board may participate in a regular or special meeting of the Board of Education, including any closed session thereof, by means of a telephone conference call, pursuant to the following protocols:

1. The absent Board member may participate in the meeting by telephone conference only when a family, work, or other bona fide emergency prevents the Board member from attending the meeting in person. Board members are expected to attend meetings in person; this provision is not to be used as a mechanism for Board members to cease attending meetings in person.

2. The absent Board member who wishes to participate in the meeting, or
a portion of the meeting, by telephone, must make his or her request known
to the Board President and the Board Office at least 24 hours prior to the
scheduled commencement of the meeting, along with the direct telephone number at
which the absent Board member will be reachable for the item(s) on the agenda
he or she wishes to participate.

3. To comply with the Open Meetings Act, the absent Board member may participate in the open session of a regular or special meeting only if the telephone call can and will be broadcast over a speaker phone or other similar technology capable of allowing the absent Board member to hear, and be heard by, the attending Board members and members of the staff, public, and press present at such meeting, or a portion thereof.

4. Any member of the Board who participates in a Board meeting by telephone conference call will not count toward the number of members necessary to constitute a quorum at such meeting.

5. However, any Board member who participates in a meeting by telephone conference call will be permitted to consider, discuss, and vote upon any matter properly before the Board in the same fashion and with the same effect as if such member were physically present at the meeting. The minutes of any meeting at which such absent Board member participates in this manner will reflect that such member participated by telephone conference call and was not physically present during such meeting.

6. For open sessions of the Board meeting, the absent Board member will
call in at an appointed time on the open session's meeting agenda into a
predesignated phone number to staff or staff will call the absent Board member, after which the Board member will be advised to wait until the Board President invites the absent member to join in the dialogue. Concurrently, the Board President will be notified by staff as to the name(s) of the Board member(s) who is (are) holding on the telephone line to join in the dialogue. The absent Board member should not speak until called upon by the Board President.

7. For closed sessions of the Board meeting, at which an absent Boardmember wishes to participate by telephone, a multi-directional speaker phone shall be placed on the conference room table and utilized so that the absent Board member(s) can hear, and be heard by, the attending Board members and staff, and to participate fully in the closed session of the meeting. Staff present at the closed session will make the call to the absent Board member(s)designated phone number to get them on the telephone at the desired portion of the closed session agenda.

8. To avoid dropped calls and to preserve confidentiality of any calls during closed session deliberations, calls from absentee Board members are strongly encouraged to be made from land line telephones.

9. To avoid either electronic interference or multi-second time delay, the absent Board member should undertake all efforts to mitigate any noise in his/her proximity, including but not limited to turning off any sound of the cablecast or webcast of the Board meeting while participating by telephone.

10. Due to the limitation on the number of outside telephone lines running to the control booth and Board Room, and to ensure the presence of a quorum, no more than three absentee Board members may participate by telephone conference call concurrently.

Legal Reference: Section 10-501 et seq., State Government Article, Annotated Code of Maryland\

Here is what they cite as a Legal Reference:
Article - State Government § 10-501.
(a) It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that, except in special and appropriate circumstances:

(1) public business be performed in an open and public manner; and

(2) citizens be allowed to observe:

(i) the performance of public officials; and

(ii) the deliberations and decisions that the making of public policy involves.

(b) (1) The ability of the public, its representatives, and the media to attend, report on, and broadcast meetings of public bodies and to witness the phases of the deliberation, policy formation, and decision making of public bodies ensures the accountability of government to the citizens of the State.

(2) The conduct of public business in open meetings increases the faith of the public in government and enhances the effectiveness of the public in fulfilling its role in a democratic society.

(c) Except in special and appropriate circumstances when meetings of public bodies may be closed under this subtitle, it is the public policy of the State that the public be provided with adequate notice of the time and location of meetings of public bodies, which shall be held in places reasonably accessible to individuals who would like to attend these meetings.

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