State panel finds hand­gun board vi­o­lated open meet­ings law

En­ter­ing closed ses­sion on July 22 to re­view two cases re­sults in mul­ti­ple vi­o­la­tions

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - MARYLAND - By Pamela Wood

Mary­land’s Hand­gun Per­mit Re­view Board vi­o­lated the state’s open meet­ings law by go­ing into a closed ses­sion this sum­mer, the state’s Open Meet­ings Com­pli­ance Board found.

Delaware res­i­dent Craig O’Don­nell chal­lenged the hand­gun board’s closed meet­ing on July 22, al­leg­ing that mul­ti­ple parts of the state law were not fol­lowed.

The hand­gun board, which hears ap­peals

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of de­ci­sions on whether hand­gun own­ers can re­ceive “wear and carry” per­mits, de­cided to re­view two cases be­hind closed doors. That prac­tice was com­mon pre­vi­ously, but largely stopped when a new set of board mem­bers took of­fice in May.

O’Don­nell filed a com­plaint with the state’s open meet­ings board in Au­gust. That board re­views com­plaints and is­sues opin­ion, but it has no author­ity to pun­ish gov­ern­ment bod­ies or of­fi­cials who vi­o­late the law.

The open meet­ings board is­sued an opin­ion this month, finding that the hand­gun board com­mit­ted mul­ti­ple vi­o­la­tions of state law dur­ing the July 22 meet­ing, in­clud­ing:

Not stat­ing the rea­son for clos­ing the meet­ing to the pub­lic;

Not record­ing who was present and what was dis­cussed dur­ing the closed ses­sion; and

Not post­ing a check­list re­quired to close a meet­ing.

The open meet­ings board did not agree with O’Don­nell’s al­le­ga­tion that the pub­lic was not given ad­vance no­tice that the hand­gun board may go into closed ses­sion.

The open meet­ings board agreed that the no­tice wasn’t in­cluded on the hand­gun board’s agenda. But that did not con­sti­tute a vi­o­la­tion of the law be­cause the hand­gun board’s chair­man had stated pub­licly he in­tended to not have closed meet­ings, the open meet­ings board noted.

“At any rate,” the open meet­ings board opin­ion states, “the Re­view Board in­forms us that it has taken re­me­dial mea­sures since July 22, in­clud­ing the re­in­state­ment of lan­guage on its meet­ing agen­das in­di­cat­ing that the Re­view Board may con­vene a closed ses­sion.”

The Hand­gun Per­mit Re­view Board is likely to ex­ist for only a few more months. State law­mak­ers who were con­cerned about the board’s high rate of grant­ing per­mits passed a bill ear­lier this year elim­i­nat­ing the board and send­ing per­mit ap­peals in­stead to state ad­min­is­tra­tive law judges. Gov. Larry Ho­gan, a Re­pub­li­can, ve­toed the bill, which al­lows the hand­gun board to re­main in op­er­a­tion un­til Demo­cratic law­mak­ers likely over­ride the veto when they are back in ses­sion in Jan­uary.

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