Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Joint BOE/Commissioners' Retreat, 2/4/15 - NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

The Board of Education members and the County Commissioners will meet in a retreat on Wednesday, February 4th from 9 a.m.to 1 p.m. at the College of Southern Maryland, BI Building, Room #113E. This convening is not a meeting under the provisions of the Open Meetings Act and in accordance with Title 3 of the General Provisions Article, Annotated Code of Maryland.  The retreat will have a Facilitator, Argene Carswell and the agenda and supporting documents can be found below.

Argene Carswell Bio
Argene Carswell Invoice

Retreat Objectives
This half‐day retreat is designed to set the foundation for effective, collaborative Charles County leadership into the future. Specific objectives are to:

  • Strengthen the working relationship between the County Commission and the Board of Education
  • Develop a stronger appreciation of respective roles and individual contribution
  • Begin to identify effective communication mechanisms and how differences will be resolved
  • Begin to chart a dynamic future for Charles County through collaborative leadership
8:30 am – 9:00 am       Coffee/Tea
9:00 am – 9:10 am       Opening Argene         How We Will Work Together
9:10 am – 10:20 am     Our Leadership Journeys All
10:20 am – 10:30 am    Break
10:30 am – 11:45 am    What Should Our Leadership of Charles County All Look Like?
  • With a focus on communication and resolving differences
11:45 am – 1:00 pm Going Forward: What We Want to Create Through All Our Leadership
 (Includes a working lunch)
1:00 pm – 1:15 pm Next Steps All
Closing and Acknowledgements


JoeCormier said...

Five Thousand dollars for someone to 'teach' our elected officials how to play nice together?!? I thought we elected professionals in Charles County. I've got 2 years experience getting my children to play nice together and I could give you a power point for the price of a BLT and a cold Lemonade.

I don't understand why this meeting needs to be closed to the public, don't we deserve to see out elected officials when the campaigns stop and things start getting real.

LegalBeaglette said...


The retreat is not a convening of both elected bodies at a particular place and time to discuss (by all participants, from what I gather from the agenda) how those bodies, and individuals, will work together? And a “convening” is not a meeting? And that convening is not subject to the Open Meetings Act requirements because…?

The new Board of Education members have undergone training for their elected roles: Did that training not include how the Board of Education interacts with the Board of County Commissioners, and the role and responsibilities each body has?

At what time was the hiring and payment of this facilitator/ consultant/ moderator/ mediator discussed and approved? As the bill has been presented to both the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners, I assume both bodies agreed upon it.

“This convening is not a meeting under the provisions of the Open Meetings Act…” sounds stilted and suspicious, and makes a statement, NOT an explanation.

Further, just for the record, who is the Board of Education’s designee for the required Open Meetings Act training? Do you know? Do you know when, and how, that individual underwent the training?

LegalBeaglette said...

From Ms. Abell’s Work Session Notes -- 2/25/2008 ( http:// abell4edu.blogspot.com/2008/02/notes-from-board-work-session-22508.html )
(Note the year!)


The Charles County Board of Education will meet with federal and state elected representatives on an annual basis.
The Board has been meeting this goal. Consensus was to keep this as a goal.

The Charles County Board of Education will meet with the Charles County Commissioners four times a year.
After lengthy discussion about whether to change the number of times to three and what exactly constitutes a meeting, i.e. a retreat vs. a presentation at the commissioners’ office. A consensus was reached to leave this goal as stated and further clarification on what constitutes a meeting was not decided.

In addition, I think it’s worth your readers’ time to take a look at the first comment (by im1ru2) on that blog post.

Please remember that we are a county that should have learned this lesson well by now. For years we had a Board of Education that routinely held executive sessions with nothing more than boilerplate defense…and then created NO executive session minutes for those meetings. None. Zip. (The Superintendent’s current attorney, Eric Schwartz, was the attorney then, too.)

We need to get beyond the banality of defining what “is” is. It’s a meeting. It’s a convening. It’s an assembly.

It is subject to the Open Meetings Act or it is not. If it is not, there is a reason, and that reason should be provided.

JoeCormier said...

The "invoice" is for $5300, 300 for travel and 2.5 days at $2000. You've only given us an agenda for the half day, why are we paying for the other two?

LegalBeaglette said...

I understand that Commissioner Robinson justified the “retreat” as proper by directing people to look up the word “retreat” in the Open Meetings Act. The word “retreat” is not mentioned in the body of that law. Is this the Texas Two-Step? We’ll use a different word, so we can package and sell it a bit differently, and proclaim innocence when challenged?

The local rag [Maryland Independent, 2/6/2015] informs us that “schools spokeswoman Katie O’Malley-Simpson referred to the decision to close the retreat as joint between the board of education and the county commissioners.”

Apparently not.

It also states, “McGraw, a former principal with the schools system, said she discovered the retreat was closed around Friday, Jan. 30—she could not recall whether it was by email or on Board-Docs—but did not object to its private nature.”

Which is why I would prefer someone with more experience in elected and representative public service serve in the leadership capacity of our boards.

According to the newspaper, McGraw stated, “I’ve been in a lot of these things in my many years as a principal, and a lot of times, they’re set up like ‘tell me one good thing you like about me, and one thing you don’t’—there is no business being discussed today, we’re being very careful.”

Cross her heart and pinky-swear? Ms. McGraw is not acting in her capacity as an employee any longer: She is an elected representative in a county that has a poor track record on this “open meetings” issue.

The newspaper also tells us McGraw said, “Mike and I agreed with [Hill] to let her make the arrangements, along with Deborah Hall.”

I did not elect Dr. Hill or Ms. Hall, and it should not be up to either of them to control public access to “convenings” or “retreats” or “get-togethers” or whatever the flavor-of-the-day “meeting” word one would care to choose. Further, if someone is going to spend $5,300 on this bash, I should like to think the people I elected made the decision to do that. The elected members of these boards should be accountable for such decisions.

It is the appearance of impropriety, and justification of the expense, that both boards must contend with now, and some of us tend to be a rather suspicious lot…for good reason.

Jennifer Abell said...

I am listening to all both of you and i hear you loud and clear and i have voice my concern loud and clear and will continue to do so. I am only one board member. Please, i urge you to bring these concerns to the attention of your other elected officials and file your FOIA requests. Mr. Schwartz did the training for the new Board of Education members locally. They also attended a training at MABE, although i was not in attendance and cannot vouch for what was covered but Mr. Schwartz was in attendance there also.

LegalBeaglette said...

Just to be clear, the required Open Meetings Act training is not the routine training newly elected members undergo, which is what I think was conducted by Eric Schwartz and MABE.

The Open Meetings Act training (which is available online) was updated on October 1, 2014; legislation requires the Board to designate at least one member , officer or employee to receive training on the Open Meetings Act. In reviewing the BoE’s minutes, I find no record that this elected Board has designated anyone to receive that training. (Ideally, I think ALL members of the elected Board should take it!)

You serve collectively as a public body, and as you stated, you are only one person – it is important that ALL of you understand the requirements of the law and take the necessary steps to ensure compliance with it.

Most importantly, this is not the type of training to which you (the elected Board of Education) should simply defer to Eric Schwartz. He is an attorney; this issue of compliance with the Open Meetings Act is knowledge and experience for which he is compensated and EXPECTED to know. He is not elected, he does not serve the public, and his performance on this very issue has fallen short in the past, and for the same types of failures for which the county commissioners have also been embarrassed. As an attorney, he knows full well there is no “enforcement” mechanism for either the training or compliance with the Open Meetings Act.

It is both tragic and comic watching public officials duck and dodge and shrug and say silly things like, “Look up the word ‘retreat’ in the Open Meetings Act.” That is a defense of which to be proud, and with which the public should be satisfied?

I think it is fair to suspect the “retreat” may have been conducted a bit differently given that its closure to the public became an issue, and that there were elected individuals like you and Commissioner Robinson who voiced concerns over that. We will likely never know, but that is the point here – everyone on the elected boards should be familiar with their responsibilities to the public they serve. Education is a wonderful thing! ;)

[By the way, thank you for not ducking and dodging and shrugging and saying silly things!]