The ACLU of Maryland has withdrawn its complaint to the state’s Open Meetings Compliance Board related to whether Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins should hold public meetings under his office’s agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement concerning the 287(g) program.
Nick Steiner, staff attorney with the ACLU, confirmed in a prepared statement that his organization had withdrawn the complaint, because Rep. David Trone (D-District 6) had submitted a letter asking the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General to examine similar issues.
The Inspector General “would more suitably address the concerns that the ACLU of Maryland and RISE Coalition have about Sheriff Jenkins’ cancellation of the meeting, and complaints with the Open Meetings Compliance Board would be duplicative and unnecessary,” Steiner wrote.
The 287(g) program provides training for sheriff’s deputies by ICE. Within the program, deputies can ask about the immigration status of anyone booked into the county’s adult detention center, and begin deportation proceedings, if necessary. In late July, the ACLU and RISE Coalition sent a complaint to the Open Meetings Compliance Board, arguing that “the 287(g) agreement between ICE and the Frederick Sheriff creates a public body subject to the Open Meetings Act.”
Frederick County Attorney John Mathias, however, issued an opinion late last month arguing that the MOA’s mention of a public steering committee meeting — and Jenkins choosing to cancel this year’s meeting — did not violate the state’s Open Meetings Act.
“The Complainant’s interpretation of ‘public body’ would make any meeting between two federal government employees and a state or local government employee a ‘public body’ if this meeting is documented in any type of agreement,” Mathias wrote. “Imagine how many of these meetings occur every day. Nothing in the OMA (Open Meetings Act) suggests that ‘public body’ was intended to be this broad.”
Mathias said Friday his conclusion was pretty straightforward, and wasn’t surprised by the ACLU withdrawing its complaint.
“I think that’s why they withdrew,” he said. “They knew there was nothing to their complaint, and they were going to lose.”
Jenkins (R) said Friday he was optimistic the Open Meetings Compliance Board would dismiss the ACLU and RISE Coalition’s complaint.
“I do think I’m on solid ground,” Jenkins said. “I think based on Mr. Mathias’ response, I think the finding is there is going to be no violation, I feel very confident in that.”
The Open Meetings Compliance Board hasn’t yet decided whether to dismiss the ACLU’s complaint. April Ishak, chairwoman of the Open Meetings Compliance Board, said Friday she had received the ACLU’s complaint, but that the board hadn’t reached a decision on whether to drop it.
Steiner said in an interview Friday that his office doesn’t regret filing the complaint. He said Trone’s letter to the Inspector General was the best way to rule whether the sheriff’s office should hold public steering committee meetings.
“I think one of the reasons Trone’s office filed their complaint was because of the transparency problems ... and the Office of the Inspector General can address this more directly,” Steiner said.