Town of Chevy Chase Broke the Law,
Open Meetings Board Rules
Press release issued March 31, 2014
The Town of Chevy Chase broke the law when its town council met in secret to hire an anti-Purple Line lobbyist. In a newly issued opinion, the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board determined that the town acted illegally by failing to take a public vote to close the meeting and not disclosing in advance the topic to be discussed.
The council met on November 26 with lobbyist Robert Shuster, the brother of House Transportation and Infrastructure chair Bill Shuster. Two weeks later, Robert Shuster's firm was hired to lobby against the planned light rail line that will run along the town's northern border.
The Open Meetings Board acted in response to a complaint by Action Committee for Transit vice president Ronit Aviva Dancis. The board ruled that if the proper disclosures and public vote had been made, the law would not have been violated by closing portions of the meeting where selection of contractors and future legal action were discussed.
Dancis pointed out that the town has now selected its lobbyists and agreed in writing that they will not provide legal advice. “The two reasons given for closing the November meeting are now off the table, so there is no longer any excuse for secrecy,” she said. “We welcome the Town Council's public acknowledgement that it has violated the law, as required by Section 10-502.5(i)(3) of the Open Meetings Law. Hopefully it will learn from this experience and take pains to communicate about lobbying only in open meetings.”