It's available to everyone.
Citizens have a chance to learn more about Maryland's Open Meetings Act. An on line course has been developed on the law by the State Attorney General's Office and the University of Maryland Institute for Governmental Service and Research.
Work on the on line course started 11 months ago. "Everyone recognized, who touches on the Open Meetings Act, that there was a great need for education, not only for the public, perhaps even reporters, but certainly and most importantly with the public officials themselves," says David Paulson, a spokseman for the Maryland Attorney General's Office. "The officials themselves, their staff and employees, should be somewhat familiar with how this operates, and what they're required to do underneath this law."
The class is available at www.igsr.umd.edu/VLC/OMA/. It consists of six lessons and 10 quizzes which take about two-and-a-half hours to complete. Students who complete the class and pass the quizzes earn a certificate of completion at the end of the course.
Between July 1st, 2010, and June 30th, 2011, the Open Meeting Compliance Board received substantially more complaints about local governments closing meetings to the public without any explanation. Paulson says this course should help reduce some of that. "If everybody knows what their rights and responsibilities are under the Open Meetings Act, then we shouldn't have any violations or misunderstandings. But, of course, much of this can be open to interpretation," he says.
Local governments can close meetings under certain circumstances, such as personnel matters, whether an employee is to be hired, fired, disciplined, promoted or demoted, security issues, or to discuss a legal matter with their attorneys.
A copy of the state's Open Meetings Act can be found at the Maryland Attorney General's Office website on the Open Government page.