RISE Vigil (copy)

About 100 people attended the RISE Coalition of Western Maryland’s local Lights for Liberty vigil on July 12 in Baker Park in Frederick to protest conditions of immigrant detention centers along the U.S.-Mexico border and the U.S. government’s treatment of refugees.

The ACLU of Maryland and RISE Coalition of Western Maryland filed a Maryland Open Meetings Act complaint Tuesday, arguing that Sheriff Chuck Jenkins (R) and his office should hold annual public meetings related to the county’s 287(g) program.

Those familiar with state open meetings laws, however, question whether the sheriff’s office is subject to any requirement to conduct public meetings.

Jenkins believes his agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) doesn’t require meetings, while ACLU representatives assert that there is prior case law that suggests otherwise.

The 287(g) program is an agreement between the sheriff’s office and ICE. It provides training for sheriff’s deputies by ICE and allows deputies to inquire about the immigration status of anyone booked into the county’s adult detention center and then begin deportation proceedings if appropriate.

The complaint, sent to the state’s Open Meetings Compliance Board, asserts that “the 287(g) agreement between ICE and the Frederick Sheriff creates a public body subject to the Open Meetings Act.” It cites a 2016 memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the sheriff’s office and ICE, stating that the steering committee that participated in informational meetings in the past is a public body and is subject to the Open Meetings Act.

Part of that MOA, however, states that the sheriff’s office “will, as necessary, engage in Steering Committee meetings and may engage in other community outreach with individuals and organizations expressing an interest in this MOA.”

Nick Steiner, an attorney for the ACLU who co-filed the complaint, said Friday that even though there is “as necessary” language in the MOA, that document and its mention of a steering committee is enough evidence that that body is a public one, subject to the state’s Open Meetings Act.

“Under the Open Meetings Act, an MOA is something that can create a public body, which is the issue, and the 287(g) MOA is outlining who is a part of this public body,” Steiner said.

Jenkins, however, defended his decision to cancel this year’s annual meeting, which typically occurs in June. He initially announced he was canceling the meeting in May.

He said a 2014 MOA between his office and ICE established the steering committee, which has met annually in a public setting since 2015.

He said he canceled this year’s meeting because the meetings have been unproductive in the past, including last year. He added that ICE sent him a written opinion stating that he is allowed to do so, given the conditions of the MOA.

“Because of how the opposition conducted themselves, the disrespect, the fact they were disorderly, disruptive ... I decided to cancel the meeting,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins’ office has 30 days from Tuesday to respond to the ACLU and RISE’s complaint, according to the Open Meetings Act. The state’s Open Meetings Compliance Board typically issues an opinion within 30 days after that, according to the attorney general’s website.

Rebecca Snyder, executive director of the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association, said that while Jenkins might not have violated the act, it’s in the spirit of the act to try to hold open meetings, in order to engage with citizens about issues that concern them.

“The Open Meetings Act is designed to allow and plan for accountability of public bodies to the citizens that are being affected by these decisions,” Snyder said. “The spirit of the law is, how do ordinary citizens have a voice in that process, and everyone generally accepts there are certain situations that might not be things discussed in open meetings, but we feel those are few and far between.”

Steiner said he’s optimistic that the compliance board would rule in the ACLU and RISE’s favor, given prior case law concerning how local government bodies become public when MOUs are created.

Jenkins said he’s not sure how the compliance board would rule, but added he’s open to hosting a public forum about the 287(g) program later this year. It’s possible that ICE and the sheriff’s office could hold future steering committee meetings, Jenkins said — but those details are still being discussed, he added.

“These were meant to be stakeholder meetings,” he said. “I’ve gone back to ICE to discuss how we might reconstruct those.”

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(50) comments

Russian

The MD ACLU is more committed in defending undocumented aliens, thugs and inmates than law abiding citizens of MD.

thump1202

I have to express my admiration for the County Sheriff's office. Where I grew up, no one trusted the police and I always thought I would avoid them. I've found the Sheriffs to be fair, professional, and I have been comfortable enough to participate in outreach programs and report circumstances I would have kept to myself otherwise that resulted in notable enforcement. Jenkins gets some credit from me on this as their boss. That said, I really don't agree with cancelling these public meetings. Limit it to county residents only, sure, but I am interested in the metrics associated with the 287(g) program and think they should be out there. Part of being a politician is dealing with citizens who disagree with your policies, without the ability to air their grievances we're only going to see more boiling over. Jenkins also ought to recognize that his victory margins have been going down in recent elections, and accessibility is something that should be on his radar if he wants to continue.

sevenstones1000

C’mon. Let the sheriff harass people in private.

thisisPedro

Actually, please, by all means -- let the crowd of 100 make themselves known to the taxpayers and citizens of Frederick and the surrounding county I want to know the faces of the resistance --

Russian

Are you Russian or Saudi Arabian?

Comment deleted.
sevenstones1000

Jersey, you wouldn’t know Soros if he walked into your living room. You have no idea who he is.

Comment deleted.
DickD

It would be the 3rd time for Karl Goose. The 3rd time is the charmed time.

public-redux

Perhaps the Steering Committee should have a public meeting. I assume it isn’t beholden to the wishes of only the High Sheriff.

FCPS-Principal

Once again the joke of a sheriff proves he is a wingnut snowflake. Protesters don't make for good photo ops.

Comment deleted.
FCPS-Principal

You owe virtually all your rights to the ACLU. You sure as hell don't owe them to Republicans.

Comment deleted.
awteam2000

And, the White House air conditioning went out, Trump says,”That’s Obama’s fault”. And why he needs to go to one of ‘HIS’ golf resorts, over 200 times on weekends in 2 1/2 years in office. Guess who’s paying for that?

Comment deleted.
awteam2000

Didn't George Soros fix the 1919 World Series?

Dwasserba

"Jenkins said he’s not sure how the compliance board would rule, but added he’s open to hosting a public forum about the 287(g) program later this year." Sounds promising.

girlpolitic

Having dealt with the Maryland Open Meetings Act it clearly cannot mandate a group meet. However if they do meet the Act spells out what must be done to be in compliance of the Act. This excerpt touches on this issue and is a direct quote from the manual issued by the MD AG.. "The Act does not govern whether a particular public body must conduct public business in a meeting; the Act simply sets the rules that apply when a public body does meet. See 94 Op. Att’y Gen. 161, 173 (2009) (“[O]ur longstanding advice has been that the Open Meetings Act does not specify when a public body must hold a meeting”).

KarlBickel

If the sheriff is offended by disrespectful, disorderly and disruptive people legitimately protesting his policies and actions he is in the wrong business.

KR999

BS!!! There’s a way to legitimately protest his policies and the behaviour of those people is definitely not it. With an attitude like that I bet you condoned the weeks of rioting with the attendant burnings and destruction of public and private properties that followed Trump’s victory in ‘16 as “legitimate protesting.” Thank God you’ll never be sheriff of this county.

KarlBickel

Anonymous poster using the moniker KR999. Clearly you do not understand the role of police in controlling passionate protesters that go up to, but do not cross the line. Of course I do not condone unlawful behavior outside of protesters who use civil disobedience, for which they are arrested, as a means of protest. We have a long history of such civil disobedience leading to positive change. As for the folks at these meetings, they hardly represented a disorderly crowd.

KR999

“Passionate protesters?” I’ve heard the recordings of the meetings and to call them “passionate” is a gross understatement. It’s my understanding that the sheriff is neither obligated, nor required by law, to hold these meetings. He does so in order that the public is informed about the program and I don’t believe his intention was for them to be a platform for anti 287(g) protests. It’s also my understanding that many of those protesters are not even from Frederick County, but came up from Montgomery County to protest a program that, essentially, is none of their concern. For them to shout insults at our sheriff while he’s trying to conduct a meeting, screaming at him that he’s racist, and preventing him from talking IS crossing the line as far as I’m concerned. As has been suggested here, I’m sure the sheriff could explain the behaviour expected from attendees of the meetings at the beginning of them, and have violators removed, but I’ve no doubt that those removed would try to initiate legal action against the sheriff in retaliation. He did exactly what I would have done and that was to simply discontinue future meetings. Now, let me know the next time you’re going to speak publicly and I’ll be sure to show up, introduce myself, and proceed to shout you down and call you names when you start talking and you can just consider me a “passionate protester,” ok?

KarlBickel

Anonymous poster using the moniker KR999. I look forward to meeting you, whoever you are.

Samanthapowers

Don’t wasted your time, Karl. That kfc/kr is a typical keyboard warrior. It talks the talk but does not have the moral fortitude to back it up. A cowardly little boy with a big mouth. You know, a typical 3rd grade bully.

mgoose806

Karl isn't it little early to crawl out from under your rock. The next election isn't until 2021. You can loose again for the 3rd or 4th time... I lost count.

FCPS-Principal

There is much more than that it does not understand,

public-redux

KarlBickel, It is disappointing that you find it noteworthy to comment on someone’s identity. The identity of the person making an argument has no relevance to the substance of the argument.

Comment deleted.
KR999

No doubt? Oh really? No doubt that once again you have no clue about what you’re saying.

niceund

Three prominent people right in the center of the photo. The mayor of Frederick who would make the city a sanctuary, a wannabe Sheriff and an Alderman. Is no one interested in the rule of law anymore? Or do we only follow laws we like?

KR999

To follow only the laws they like has been a policy of the liberal left for years.

marinick1

[thumbup]

Rockfish

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marinick1

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gabrielshorn2013

The agreement states "Part of that MOA, however, states that the sheriff’s office “will, as necessary, engage in Steering Committee meetings and may engage in other community outreach with individuals and organizations expressing an interest in this MOA.”. In regulatory language, WILL is not a command, as is "shall". I agree that such meetings should be held, IF AND ONLY IF the attendees behaved themselves, and were respectful. To date this has not happened, so I don't blame the Sheriff for not holding the meetings.

KR999

I agree Gabe. Opponents of the program have proven they’re incapable of acting civilized and in a respectful manner at the meetings and the sheriff should not have to tolerate their garbage. When he was on WFMD’s Mid Maryland Live a while back he stated that was the only reason why he wasn’t going to hold the meetings anymore.

DickD

Gabe, the words that makes me wonder is, "as necessary". Who decides that?

DickD

Without those two words, I really think that the Sheriff would be obligated to hold meetings. As far as having unruly people, at one of his meetings, he is the Sheriff, he has deputies, warn anyone unruly, if they persist have them removed.

gabrielshorn2013

Dick, the term "will" does not command the Sheriff to hold regular meetings. He could hold meetings whenever he felt like it. If the word was "shall" hold regular meetings, that would command him to do so. From what I have heard of the previous meetings, the protesters have been disruptive, acting like petulant adolescents and shouting down the Sheriff. Since the Sheriff is not obligated to hold meetings, he can simply not hold them. Protesters may wear shirts or carry banners, but totally shutting down a meeting is counterproductive for their position.

DickD

The controlling words are. "as necessary". And you didn't answer the question, who decides as necessary.

gabrielshorn2013

The Sheriff does. Where does it say anyone else? Remember, in regulatory language "shall" is a command, "will" is not.

DickD

Okay, Gabe. If the Sheriff decides "as necessary" it can be anything he wants. And I do agree with that.

gabrielshorn2013

I agree that these meetings should be held Dick, in order to get information from the Sheriff on the program. However, if the Sheriff is not allowed to speak because the protesters are interrupting and shouting him down, he cannot tell us what is happening. Hence, the meetings are pointless unless the protesters begin to act like mature adults. They hurt their own cause by not being respectful, asking tough questions, and waiting for an answer.

DickD

Not having attended his meetings I do not know how disruptive they were. . I do know Karl Bickle didn't consider them that disruptive and I trust Karl.

gabrielshorn2013

Dick, While I admire and respect Mr. Bickel, he is not exactly a neutral party to this issue. I would like to hear the recording of this meeting that KR999 heard. Reports about the behavior were in the media, and I read those. Lots of unruly behavior. Google "jenkins 287g meeting" and read about the 2018 meeting.

marinick1

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