Save the Date: The next MMAA lunch meeting will be on Thursday, May 4, 2017 at Fisherman's Inn at Kent Narrows.
We will welcome Lisa Kershner, the Public Access Ombudsman for Maryland, who mediates disputes arising under the Public Information Act. Along with her, Karen Federman Henry, legal counsel to the Public Information Act Compliance Board and the Ombudsman, will join us. Both the Public Access Ombudsman and the PIA Compliance Board started in their new positions during 2016. Our guest speakers will share with us their insights and impressions, as well as lay out current issues they see affecting local governments. We will have the chance to ask any particular questions as well as gain their advice in handling PIA requests.
In addition, we will consider the recent General Assembly session, vote on officers for the MMAA, and consider any other business.
We will be sending out an email notice to all members and will ask that everyone RSVP to Frank Johnson no later than April 14 to allow for seating and planning. Feel free to RSVP if you see this and wish to attend! There is no cost for members, and guests will be $30.00.
Information from Thursday, February 9 meeting at
Harry Browne’s in Annapolis
The Thursday, February 9, 2017 MMAA lunch meeting was held at Harry Browne’s, 66 State Circle in Annapolis. Brynja Booth, President, called the meeting to order at 12:10 p.m. and welcomed everyone. She asked attendees to introduce themselves and thanked MMAA member Susan Silber of Silber, Perlman, Sigman & Tilev, P.A. for moderating the panel discussion on the 2014 Fairness for All Marylanders Act and transgender rights in Maryland.
Brynja thanked everyone for attending, and noted our spring meeting will be on May 4 at the Fisherman’s Inn at Kent Narrows, as it has been for the last few years. This year, we will welcome Lisa Kershner, with the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, who serves as the Ombudsman for public information act complaints regarding fees, and Karen Federman-Henry, also with the Attorney General’s Office, who serves as the Public Information Board counsel. Brynja also noted that for our meeting at the MML Convention on June 26, we’ll have Paul DeSantis, who served as the MDE counsel in recent environmental litigation, speak to us about the MS-4 stormwater permitting process.
Minutes of the September 15, MMAA meeting, which was a joint meeting with the Municipal Clerks, were unanimously approved, on motion by Linda Perlman which was seconded by Jason DeLoach. Also, Jason DeLoach, Treasurer, reported that the MMAA financial balance is about $4,900.00, which will be reduced by today’s lunch costs, as well as the costs for the upcoming meeting at the Fisherman’s Inn on May 4. No questions were raised and the treasurer’s report was approved by consensus. Given the balance and upcoming expenses, Jason recommended that MMAA send dues bills to all members for 2017/2018, but at the same $50.00 rate per member. After discussion, it was agreed that the bills for FY 2018 should be sent on or around March 1, with payment due by July 1, 2017. Ernie Crofoot so moved, which was seconded by Todd Pounds, and was approved unanimously.
MMAA Legislative Committee representative Lynn Board gave a brief update on current legislation before the General Assembly. She noted that while relatively few bills had been filed calling for major changes in municipal issues, such as regarding the Open Meetings Act, MML was pursuing its key priorities, including HUR (Highway User Revenue) funding and gaining better communication with utility companies, as well as addressing concerns in legislation that had been filed. This included a bill concerning Forest Conservation, which would as drafted require forest replacement at 100% of all areas affected by development, rather than the current 20%. The problem with higher replacement requirements is that municipalities have limited land area and thus fewer and fewer places to find for forest replacement. She also noted that two foreclosure bills had been filed, after recommendations by a task force which met on the foreclosure process, and that those bills, supported with clarifying amendments by MML, are intended to provide municipalities with better information during the foreclosure process – including identification of the new owner for maintenance and repair on foreclosed properties. She also noted that a bill shifting attorneys fees for findings of Constitutional violations, which LGIT now indicates could increase municipal insurance rates by 50% or more, is a major concern and that MML will be working to oppose it. Finally, she reported that a meeting with utility company representatives had been held, in which municipalities seek better communication on maintenance and construction affecting roads and right of ways. She reported that utility companies have agreed to provide a list of contact persons, allow better coordination of projects, and that Washington Gas, for example, will also provide a database of upcoming projects.
Lynn also noted that the Coalition on Small Cell Facilities was moving forward on preparing, with counsel, responses to the FCC rulemaking proposal by the March 8, 2017 deadline. She noted that under this proposal, municipalities may face the risk of losing any right to charge fees or even regulate wireless use of their right of ways. She noted that funds had been raised through the cooperative effort to secure counsel and experts to support municipalities, and that the coalition now included 20 municipalities and 3 counties – Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s. She said that any municipalities interested in joining the coalition should contact her as soon as possible.
Brynja asked for any input or ideas for future meeting topics, either now, later or through emails as ideas come to members. It was suggested that we might ask the Maryland Attorney General’s Civil Rights Office to make a presentation on key issues under current law. Also, Secretary Frank Johnson noted that the Municipal Infractions Manual had been printed through MML’s efforts and that a copy would be sent to municipalities in the next few weeks, and thanked members for their support for this effort.
Susan Silber introduced the two panel members for the discussion on transgender rights in Maryland: attorney Miriam Sievers of Silber, Perlman, Sigman & Tilev, P.A. and Patrick Paschall, Executive Director of Free State Justice in Maryland.
Miriam introduced members to some basic terminology involving the general issue of transgender rights, noting that gender is generally considered a person’s “birth-assigned” sex, but that a person’s gender identity may not necessarily comport with the birth-assigned gender. She also introduced the concept of gender expression, which involves how persons identify with one gender or another – such as by clothing, style, or language. She noted that transgender includes a person whose gender identity is not the same as that person’s birth-assigned gender, but that “cisgender” means someone whose identity matches with the birth-assigned gender. The issue, thus, is the extent to which a person’s gender identity or preference is honored, even when that is not that person’s birth-assigned gender.
Free State Justice Executive Director Patrick Paschall noted that persons who are undergoing gender transitions or have changed gender based on their identity and preference face a number of challenges. He provided information, for example, stating that 40% of transgender persons had reported attempting suicide in a recent survey. Laws vary greatly state to state, and that 18 states and the District of Columbia have some protection for gender identity. There is no specific federal protection, but several provisions have been determined by agency and court decisions to apply. These include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (employment), Title IX (schools), the Fair Housing Act, Affordable Care Act, the Prisoner’s Rape Elimination Act of 2012, and the Violence Against Women Act. For Maryland, the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 lays out anti-discrimination prohibitions regarding public accommodations, employment, housing and licensing. While the state law provides no initial right of private action, a complaint is filed with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, and subsequent to that administrative process, private litigation could result. He noted that the Maryland law does not apply directly to schools or private clubs, even as the Federal provisions (Title IX of the Civil Rights Act) do apply. Also, he reported that the Maryland Department of Education had issued recommendations on best practices to encourage schools to honor a person’s gender identity. Patrick went through several specific cases and discussed with MMAA members several case scenarios which included real-life examples municipal staff may face in ensuring compliance with Maryland law.
Information from Thursday, September 15, 2016 Joint Meeting with the Municipal Clerks Association
At the Kentlands Mansion, 320 Kent Square Road, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20878
Click here for approved minutes
The Thursday, September 15, 2016 MMAA meeting was held at the Kentlands Mansion in the City of Gaithersburg, 320 Kent Square Road, and was a joint meeting with the Maryland Municipal Clerks Association. The meeting was conducted under a joint agenda including introductions, a report from both the Clerks and Attorneys, and presentations by MMAA members. Several noted that they believe this may have been the first joint meeting, and expressed the hope that the groups would continue periodic joint meetings.
Frederick City Attorney Saundra Nichols and Assistant City Attorney Rachel Depo (also MMAA Vice-President) made a presentation on the Open Meetings Act. Their PowerPoint presentation can be accessed here.
Information from Monday, June 27, 2016 MMAA Meeting at the MML Summer Convention in Ocean City.
Click here for approved minutes
Information from Thursday, May 5, 2016 MMAA Spring Meeting at Fisherman's Inn at Kent Narrows.
Click here for approved minutes.
Judges Dale Cathell and Glenn Harrell of the Maryland Court of Appeals provided members with a review of several recent Court of Appeals decisions, as well as a 27-page summary of all decisions relevant to municipalities which was distributed and is available by clicking here.
Information from Wednesday, March 16, 2016 MMAA Telephone Conference on Small Cell and Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS).
A group of members joined in a telephone conference to discuss new changes in telecommunications, largely to accommodate the widespread use of smart phones and similar devices. We thank Kimberly Min, MMAA member and Whiteford, Taylor and Preston for hosting the conference call.
The issue of telecommunications is now a major local issue, after changes in technology and the law. Municipalities are increasing being approached by providers and infrastructure firms for permission to install small cell facilities and larger DAS facilities, often on rights of way. Sometimes they will seek to install these items on buildings, on pole, on street lights, or next to other antennas. These represent relatively new technological advances that broaden the wireless cell coverage. And a relatively recent FCC order mandates, in most cases, that local governments allow installations that will expand coverage in this way.
During the discussion, led by Victor Tervala, Baltimore City Chief Solicitor, John Lyons, Anne Arundel County Cable Administrator, and Frank Johnson, Gaithersburg Assistant City Attorney, speakers pointed out how the new FCC "shot clocks" or permit deadlines of 60, 90 or 150 days apply, but also how these timelines do not apply until a completed application has been submitted. Click here for more detailed notes on the discussion. Generally, with changes in technology, municipalities should expect to hear from a provider or infrastructure provider. Some can be aggressive, even though most are willing to work with municipalities -- but it is always important to know your rights.
In most cases, a first step will be entering a contract, either a franchise agreement or right of way agreement - or both. Part of that agreement will include allowable fees, and the municipalities preference for use of public land or public facilities, such as City or Town street lights. Click here for a recent Baltimore City ordinance laying out franchise fee requirements for these facilities.
Permit denials are in most cases limited, but safety, appearance and specific placement (if a workable alternative is offered) can all be considerations.
In addition to a contract or agreement, as discussed during the conference, municipalities do need to ensure they have zoning in place to allow these installations -- as well as impose reasonable restrictions. Municipalities also need to have a permitting process in place to accommodate the deadlines and ensure applicants receive communication as quickly as possible. Click here for a sample draft highlighting recent zoning ordinance and permitting changes for the City of Gaithersburg.
We expect this will be an ongoing issue, especially as technology continues to change, and this conference and these materials highlight some key steps municipalities can and should take.
Information from the Thursday, March 3, 2016 MMAA Meeting at Harry Browne's in Annapolis
Click here for approved minutes.
Tiffany Harvey, Deputy Counsel for Civil Rights and Legislative Affairs for the Office of the Attorney General, spoke about Attorney General Brian Frosh’s legislative initiatives but emphasized the August 2015 Guidance on preventing discriminatory profiling for law enforcement agencies. She said that the Attorney General took the initiative to develop uniform state standards as a guide for all police agencies in Maryland to follow – making Maryland the first state to follow similar guidance put in place by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in 2014. The Guidelines are on the Attorney General’s website but you can also click here for a copy.
Information from the Thursday, October 8, 2015 MMAA meeting at the Café Deluxe Restaurant in Gaithersburg,
Click here for approved minutes
Information from the June 29, 2015 MMAA Meeting at the MML Convention Click here for approved minutes
The Monday, June 29, 2015 MMAA meeting was held at the Ocean City Convention Center in Room 210.
Meredith Mishaga, Director of Foreclosure Administration with the Commissioner of Financial Regulation (part of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation/DLLR), gave us a powerpoint about the Maryland Foreclosed Property Registry, which was created by the General Assembly in 2012 to provide local jurisdictions with information on current ownership of foreclosed homes. Her powerpoint presentation can be viewed by clicking here. And if you want to review the brief "quick fact" pamphlet, click here. As she described, these are homes which can fall into disrepair during the foreclosure process, when they are usually vacant. It may be difficult to find a responsible party to address civil code and maintenance concerns (which may include tall grass or needed home repairs).
The Registry isn't a complete solution, but can help local governments identify purchasers of residential property. The registry requirement kicks in at the time of the foreclosure sale, and requires at least initial registration within 30 days after the sale . Information should include the new owner, status, who accepts legal service and who is responsible for maintenance, among other things. There's a $50 fee, and while the Commissioner of Financial Regulation has no specific enforcement authority, the fee is increased to $100 if the registry is late; also, Director Mishaga noted local governments can require registry compliance and enforce it through the municipal infraction process, with fines or even abatement orders.
Director Mishaga noted that this information is not public, and municipal staff need to register via the Registry website to gain access to the information; see the attached (click here) for further information about the Registry. For attorneys who aren't municipal staff, a statement or letter from the city or town is needed before we can access the data. She also noted disclosure is limited, as this is considered private information. Thus, we can only share it with municipal staff, the HOA or condo association where the property is part of a commonly-owned community, or a person living on the same street.
Information from the May 21, 2015 MMAA Meeting
The Thursday, May 21, 2015 meeting was held at the Fisherman's Inn, Kent Narrows, and had several speakers.
Adam Snyder, Chief Council, Opinions and Advice for the Maryland Attorney General, spoke about several upcoming changes in the Public Information Act after the General Assembly. Changes include creation of a Public Information Act Board, with limited jurisdiction (only to address fees in excess of $350) but broad power to order fee reductions; an Ombudsman in the Attorney General's office with broad oversight to address any issues of concern raised by either a person requesting records or the local government, but no formal authority to order any solution. He also noted fees will be limited to actual costs, and that the requesting party's ability to pay can be a separate waiver consideration. Other changes include the requirement of a 10-working-days response if responding takes longer, with an estimated time for completion and a cost estimate, and the need for local governments to identify a contact for all requests, which can also be divided by department. Local governments also must note, at least on their website, which (if any) documents are available on demand. Overall, Mr. Snyder advised reaching out to requestors with a response or update, as soon as possible.
Tim Ailsworth of LGIT also spoke on the impact of Local Government Tort Claims Act changes, in which awards and permitted claim times were all doubled (awards from $200,000 to $400,000, and each occurrence from $400,000 to $800,000, with the time allowed to file a claim increasing from 6 months from date of occurrence to one year). He indicated this will result in an increase of costs by about 5% for municipalities self-ensured through LGIT.
Tom Curtin, MML's Government Relations and Research Associate, also spoke about the General Assembly, noting two MML priorities were approved, including the Governor's proposal for Highway User Revenues , granting municipalities $19 million out of $25 million added by the budget and the land use bill clarifying that legislative bodies can amend Master Plan recommendations from their Planning Commissions, but must hold a public hearing if such changes are made. He also noted the bill regarding double taxation was passed as a local bill for Frederick County rather than statewide, but would require a resolution and could serve as a sample for future statewide legislation.
Officer elections, to start with the new MML Board of Directors (at the MML Convention next month) were also held, and those nominated were unanimously approved. Thus John Barr will continue serving as President; Brynja Booth will serve as Vice-President; Jason DeLoach will continue as Treasurer; and Frank Johnson will serve as Secretary. Elissa Levan indicated she wished to continue serving as MMAA representative on the MML Board of Directors, and Lynn Board wishes to remain on the MML Legislative Committee, and members also unanimously supported their continuation.
Information from Winter/Early Spring 2015 MMAA Meeting
The Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 meeting was held in Annapolis. Karen Kruger, partner with Funk and Bolton PA who also serves as counsel for the Maryland Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Association, spoke on the issues and impacts related to the use of police body-worn cameras. She noted several bills had been filed in the General Assembly this year which would not mandate the use of such cameras but would impose a number of requirements on their use. Issues with police body-worn cameras include privacy, safety and the costs of retaining the data. Additionally, the costs of reviewing and organizing the data can also be substantial. And in many cases, the cameras themselves are not always dependable, and even when they are, the actual recording can be difficult to follow. LGIT has establishing a pilot testing project and several jurisdictions are making initial use of these cameras, so we will all have the chance to learn from their experience. Even so, it's clear the privacy, safety and cost concerns will continue.
Click here for an article on police body-worn cameras entitled "Lessons from the Early Adopters," which Karen handed out at the meeting.
Lynn Board, MMAA's representative on the MML Legislative Committee, also updated members. As to MML priorities, the $19 million of HUR funding for municipalities, which the Governor included in his budget proposal, is likely to be retained with approval from both houses; the land use bill clarifying legislative authority to approve and amend master plan recommendations appears likely to pass; and a financial disclosure bill was not favorably reported. Otherwise, public information act amendments are likely to be approved, establishing a Public Information Compliance Board, requiring responses within 10 days and allowing Board review of fees over $350, after several amendments proposed by MML.
In MMAA business, no further nominations for 2015-2016 officers were received and membership voting will, per the Bylaws, be completed at the May meeting. Persons nominated for each of the positions are John Barr for President, Brynja Booth for Vice President, Jason DeLoach for Treasurer, and Frank Johnson for Secretary. Additionally, Elissa Levan has indicated she wishes to remain as the MML Board of Directors representative, and Lynn Board wishes to remain as the MML Legislative Committee representative.
Information from the MMAA 2014 Fall Meeting:
The December 4, 2014 meeting, held in Annapolis, included an update from Candace Donoho, MML's Government Relations Director, on MML's legislative priorities for the 2015 General Assembly session, including restoring Highway User Revenues (HUR), clarifying the approval process for municipal master plans and protecting some ethics disclosures (particularly involving spouses and dependent children) from public disclosure. approval issue (as to whether legislative bodies have final approval authority and can amend a planning commission recommendation) and required ethics disclosures. MML has adopted both as part of its legislative priorities for clarifications and/or corrections.
Lynn Board, MMAA’s representative on the MML legislative committee, Debra Daniel, City Attorney for Rockville, and Tom McCarron, Mt. Airy’s town attorney, who a few years ago filed a request for an AG opinion in 2012 on the master plan approval issue, discussed the question of whether Maryland's Land Use Article allows legislative bodies to amend or remand a master plan recommendation from the planning commission, or simply require either outright approval or rejection. Click here for materials the Panel prepared, which includes:
* A copy of the relevant Maryland Annotated Code sections (both the current Land Use Article and prior Article 66B);
* The June 13, 2014 letter from the Department of Planning to the City of Rockville; and
* The November 18, 2014 Attorney General opinion to the Town of Mount Airy.
Information from the MMAA Spring 2014 Meeting:
At the May 8, 2014 MMAA Spring meeting at Fisherman's Inn at Kent Narrows, Judge Glenn T. Harrell, Jr. and returned Judge Dale R. Cathell joined us to discuss notable cases. Click here for Judge Harrell's summary of recent decisions which he discussed at the meeting.
Court Summary for MMAA Spring Meeting