The County Council decided Tuesday to rehear the Monrovia Town Center case again from the start, after deciding that there were some issues with the record that they couldn’t sort out.
But two of the five council members, Kirby Delauter and Billy Shreve, are now concerned about statements that were made Tuesday just before the vote.
A judge had told the council to look at the record — specifically, what effect a particular letter had on the record. He told the council to hold further proceedings and take testimony on the matter. So the council asked former commissioners to submit affidavits about whether the letter influenced the board’s vote.
At the meeting Tuesday, a council member and a senior assistant county attorney also insinuated that the council had asked two former commissioners, Blaine Young and Paul Smith, to come before the council to testify. Shreve had asked the attorney, Michael Chomel, whether the council could ask Young, the former commissioners president, and Smith to come before the council.
“I think we already did,” Council Vice President M.C. Keegan-Ayer responded. “That was the hearing we had in June.”
To which Chomel added, “The answer is yes. And I think they were invited to come.”
They weren’t formally invited to testify, though. Asked Wednesday to provide any correspondence to the commissioners, Ragen Cherney, the council’s chief of staff, responded by referencing letters the council sent to commissioners asking for their affidavits. The letter mentions an upcoming public hearing on the topic but doesn’t specifically ask the commissioners to come.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Smith said he can’t remember if he was asked to testify in person. He declined to comment further on the topic.
Young sent an email Wednesday to the council members and media making it clear that he wasn’t invited.
“I would have been more than willing to come and testify and be cross-examined by the council or public if requested and needed,” he wrote.
Reached by phone later Wednesday, Young said it upsets him that it was stated in the record that he was invited, before the vote on such an important matter.
“That’s a boldfaced lie,” he said.
Historic Preservation Commission violates Open Meetings Act
When the Frederick County Council was trying to decide earlier this year whether to designate Trout Run as a historic property, they looked to see what the Historic Preservation Commission was recommending.
But if you wanted to know more about why the commission reached its positive recommendation, part of the record was missing. The minutes and recording of a Dec. 3 meeting were not available when the council was discussing the topic.
The fact that the commission failed to produce minutes or a recording of the meeting was a violation of the state’s Open Meetings Act, a state compliance board decided in an Aug. 20 opinion.
“The act requires the public body to provide minutes in the form of either ‘live and archived video or audio streaming’ or else written minutes, which must be prepared as ‘soon as practicable after the meeting,’” the opinion states.
Kimberly Mellon, who was an advocate against the historic designation, filed the open meetings complaint. A county attorney responded and said that the county’s video recording system was unavailable for the meeting, so county staff instead turned to the audio system for a recording, according to the board’s opinion.
“It appears that staff learned about five months later that nothing had been recorded,” the opinion states.
The county attorney says the county will now check audio recordings promptly to ensure that the system worked and the commission will now adopt minutes at each successive meeting, according to the opinion.
Council Vice President M.C. Keegan-Ayer will be the special guest at the South Frederick County Democrats breakfast next week.
The breakfast will take place at 8 a.m. Tuesday at IHOP, 5277 Buckeystown Pike in Frederick.
For details, contact email@example.com or Ed Burrell at 301-810-5775.