Com­plaint filed over closed-door meet­ing of state gun board

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - MARYLAND - By Pamela Wood

A Delaware man has filed a com­plaint that the Mary­land Hand­gun Per­mit Re­view Board im­prop­erly held part of a meet­ing be­hind closed doors last month.

The Baltimore Sun re­ported last week that the hand­gun board held closed hear­ings on two re­quests for con­cealed-carry per­mits on July 22, even though the board’s staff warned that do­ing so might vi­o­late the state’s Open Meet­ings Act.

The board’s agenda that night did not in­clude a warn­ing that the board might meet in closed ses­sion, which is one of the re­quire­ments for hold­ing a closed ses­sion.

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con­trol ad­vo­cacy groups told The Baltimore Sun that they didn’t plan to file a com­plaint.

But after read­ing about the meet­ing in The Sun, Delaware res­i­dent Craig O’Don­nell filed a com­plaint with the Open Meet­ings Com­pli­ance Board on Thurs­day.

O’Don­nell is a jour­nal­ist in Delaware, who pre­vi­ously worked in Mary­land. He con­sid­ers him­self a “trans­parency ad­vo­cate” and said he’s filed dozens of open meet­ings com­plaints.

“Dis­cussing a per­mit in a closed ses­sion should never hap­pen ex­cept for com­pelling rea­sons in rare cases,” O’Don­nell wrote in his com­plaint. “As a mem­ber of the pub­lic, I can­not con­jure up a sit­u­a­tion where this should be nec­es­sary, and the HPRB has never of­fered the pub­lic suf­fi­cient ex­pla­na­tion.”

O’Don­nell’s com­plaint also al­leges that the hand­gun board fur­ther vi­o­lated the open meet­ings law by not clearly stat­ing a rea­son for clos­ing the meet­ing, not hav­ing a mem­ber present who had re­ceived re­quired train­ing in the open meet­ings law and not in­clud­ing enough in­for­ma­tion about the closed ses­sion in the meet­ing min­utes.

The Open Meet­ings Com­pli­ance Board re­views com­plaints and is­sues opin­ions on whether govern­ment bod­ies have vi­o­lated the law. It does not have any au­thor­ity to im­pose sanc­tions, such as fines.

The Hand­gun Per­mit Re­view Board hears ap­peals of de­ci­sions by the Mary­land State Po­lice on per­mits for hand­gun own­ers to wear and carry their guns. Some cases are ap­peals of gun own­ers who were de­nied a per­mit, but most are for per­mit own­ers who want re­stric­tions on their per­mit lifted.

The board came un­der scrutiny for grant­ing ap­pli­cants’ re­quests more than 80 per­cent of the time in 2018. State law­mak­ers passed a bill this year to abol­ish the board, in­stead send­ing ap­peals straight to ad­min­is­tra­tive judges. Gov. Larry Ho­gan, a Repub­li­can, ve­toed the bill and ap­pointed new mem­bers to the hand­gun board in June.

The hand­gun board is likely to re­main in op­er­a­tion only un­til Jan­uary, when the Demo­cratic-led Gen­eral Assem­bly is ex­pected to over­ride Ho­gan’s veto.

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