Open Meetings Act
The stated goals of the Maryland Open Meetings Act are to increase the public's faith in government, ensure the accountability of government to the public, and enhance the public's ability to participate effectively in our democracy. To further those goals, the Act generally requires State and local public bodies to hold their meetings in public, give the public adequate notice of those meetings, and allow the public to inspect meetings minutes and certain other records. Although the Act permits public bodies to discuss certain topics behind closed doors, public bodies must take certain steps before doing so. The Act applies only to the public bodies that fall within its definition of that term, and some activities are excluded from the Act.
The Open Meetings Law Compliance Board is an independent unit of State government composed of three members appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Board has no office or budget of its own, although the Office of the Attorney General provides staff support.
The Board's complaint procedures offer members of the public an alternative to going to court when they feel the Open Meetings Act has been violated. Complaints received by the Board are forwarded to the public body for its response. The Board then reviews the submissions and issues a written opinion. The Board has neither investigative nor enforcement powers. Therefore, the primary value of its opinions is to promote future compliance by educating public bodies and members of the public. The Board publishes an annual report every Fall.
For more information on the Open Meetings Act, we encourage you to review the Open Meetings Act Manual (7th ed. 2010), published by the Office of the Attorney General, or take the online class developed by the Institute for Governmental Service and Research at the University of Maryland and the Office of the Attorney General.
The Open Meetings Act Manual includes as Appendices the complaint procedures (which include a section on how to respond to a complaint), a compliance checklist, a sample closing statement for public bodies' use when closing a meeting, and a topic index to the Board's opinions.
Important note: The Board lacks the authority to address alleged violations of the Public Information Act or the open meetings laws pertaining to condominium and homeowners associations. The Maryland Condominium Act provision appears at sec.11-109.1 of the Real Property Article. The Maryland Homeowners Association Act provision appears at sec.11B-111 of the Real Property Article.