A state board has ruled that Brunswick city officials violated the Maryland Open Meetings Act during a closed session in August.

The Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board, part of the state Attorney General’s Office and the body tasked with enforcing the Open Meetings Act, ruled the city violated multiple parts of the law, including failing to provide an accurate list of all individuals present during the closed session.

“While the same procedures and processes were followed for this meeting that have been followed by the city for all other closed meetings for many years, we understand the board’s findings and interpretations, and will immediately make necessary adjustments to our process and procedures going forward,” Mayor Nathan Brown said in a prepared statement during the city’s Jan. 11 meeting.

Because the Compliance Board’s opinion is advisory only, according to county attorneys, the city was just required to acknowledge and provide a summary of the opinion at the next meeting, which came Jan. 11.

Minutes from the Aug. 17 meeting state that the city met to “discuss a potential business locating in Brunswick,” and a list of those present included Brown, the six members of the City Council and a number of county staff, though there’s no mention that personnel from the business in question were present too.

Brown said in an interview Wednesday the city omitted individual names to conceal the identity of the business, but state law requires governing bodies to publish at least a generic description of who else was there, like “representatives of the subject business.”

The mayor declined to say how many people aside from city staff were present or what businesses they represented.

“The city had been diligently working with a business about the potential of locating in Brunswick,” Brown said during the city’s Jan. 11 meeting. “We were working towards beginning the public discussions and process. We regret that due to issues with this business and other government agencies (beyond the city of Brunswick), all discussions have now ceased.”

The Compliance Board also found in its opinion, published Jan. 5, that the city failed to adequately notify the public that it would meet openly before entering into closed session and didn’t provide the public an opportunity to object to the closure.

A post on the city’s official Facebook page from Aug. 16 stated that the mayor and City Council would hold a closed session the following day to “discuss a proposal for a business to locate in the city in accordance with the Maryland Open Meetings Act.” But the post didn’t mention that the city would first meet openly, which the Open Meetings Act requires.

Lastly, the Compliance Board ruled the city failed to properly cite the statute that allowed for the closed session. In its minutes from the Aug. 17 meeting, the city cited a statute that had been repealed and was no longer in effect.

One day before the city’s closed session meeting, the Frederick County Council held the first of a pair of closed meetings. In a similar ruling in December, the Compliance Board found the County Council had violated the Open Meetings Act in each of its closed meetings.

Based on the County Council’s minutes, which unlike minutes from Brunswick’s meeting included a full list of attendees, there were 13 people at the meeting who didn’t appear to be part of county government.

A Google search showed that at least six of the names — Michael Punke, Tony Burkart, Becky Ford, Garrett Jansma, Keith Klein and Matt Mincieli — match LinkedIn accounts of officials with Amazon in such departments as economic development, real estate acquisition and development, environmental policy and public policy.

Follow Jack Hogan on Twitter: @jckhogan

(20) comments

TomWheatley

Any thoughts as to why Amazon was all cloaks and daggers about a potential data center here? I wonder if we will find out they approached the other towns as well. Not like a data center can't be dropped down most anywhere and I would assume they were looking for the usual handouts and playing one place off one another.

Reminds me a bit of how Disney set up shop in Florida and later, almost did the same in Haymarket, VA.

matts853

I have a friend who works at a data center in NOVA who knew about all this. He said they are ruthless with governments and employees in their quest to build data centers. They think they can strong arm people just by walking in the door.

matts853

He told me those data centers use tremendous amounts of energy and Amazon doesn’t rig them to be green. The analogy to cool all the electronics is running an air conditioner in a fireplace.

TomWheatley

Most likely the Amazon folks were in town smooth talking the County Council and dropped over to Brunswick as well. Maybe they could have tried using the land at the Jefferson "Technology" Center instead for their data center.

matts853

That's exactly what happened. And one of the Amazon people was fired for not being able to make any deals. I don't know which one though.

shiftless88

Do what the reporter did and look them up on LinkedIn. The one that says "used to work at Amazon" is probably the one.

Plumbum

The fact that mayor brown left the names out of the attendees exclaims he knew what he was doing was/is wrong. Folks, keep an eye on him, he’s not a good person.

newspostreader

Plumbum I'm curiosu why he's not a good person. What is known?

Plumbum

We’ll just let things ride out. And as they do I’ll comment “see, told you so, see, told you so”

Brown is at his wits end. This isn’t FB, he can’t block anyone! He’s probably reported my posts 33 times already

newspostreader

Plumbum - As a side note, I don't disagree with your statement. I'm was just curious if yours experiences were similar. I was surprised when he was elected Mayor, but at the same time I wouldn't want to see him fail because that impacts the entire City of Brunswick. Hopefully this has been a learning experience for him.

Plumbum

I was not surprised he was elected as mayor. Not one bit. But, I’m sure the late nite staff that works the drive thru at the Brunswick McDonald’s was very surprised that he is mayor.

Brown loves brunswick. Yes he does.

But, brown also has a very unreasonable, illogical, and immature side to him. When he put his hat in the ring for the election, he had a lot of “cleaning up” to do with his personal social media.

They say “we all have pasts”. “People do change”. I’ve been around long enough to know that certain sides of people never change. It’s always a matter of time.

The open meetings act is clear and concise. Glad brown got suckered and took the bait.

threecents

He made no secret that he purposely did not include the names to protect the anonymity of the business, and since the business decided not to move to Brunswick, it seems to be a moot point.

Plumbum

While true. But it happened. It still happened.

It’s like cheating on your lover. It should never have happened in the first place

threecents

Well maybe if she was more attentive to my needs, I wouldn't have felt the need to cheat on her.

Plumbum

LOL! That’s what I say (jokingly) to my friends!

dremsberg

What’s the point of the last paragraph? It’s highly speculative and has no direct bearing to the article. If you search most people’s names you get multiple name hits on LinkedIn and this list is no different - one of those names matches over 500 people on LinkedIn. Bad reporting - stick with facts and not conjecture. I guess you could say that paragraph is factual to some degree but not in how it’s connected to the article. Not good reporting or journalism.

matts853

The paragraph is insinuating that Amazon was the business Brunswick met with, which is 100% true. Those same Amazon people met with the county council on 8/16 and went to Brunswick the next day. Both government bodies were found in violation of the Act for these meetings because Amazon pressured them to stay anonymous. They clearly intimidated Brunswick more than the county council because their violations are far more egregious per the findings. At least the council had a record of who was there. No deals were reached with either body and Amazon has moved on to greener pastures (literally) somewhere else. One of these Amazon folks lost their job over this debacle.

Plumbum

Nathan Brown stretching the rules, imagine that. True colors finally coming out. This is only the beginning folks

Nicki

Oh puh-leeze. You couldn't find a more hard-working or honest man than Nathan Brown. Brunswick is lucky to have him as mayor.

Plumbum

"Honest"?

You do realize that this news story is about dishonest leadership, right?

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