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Prince George’s County Public Schools Maryland Found in Violation of Open Meetings Act
A parent was denied the BOE meeting minutes she sought in her investigation of transparency issues in the PGCPS school cell tower policy.
She was concerned about the “lack of transparency”
“I was trying to figure out if and how the Board was given notice by the CEO when specific cell towers were in development or if the policy even required such transparency. I also wanted to understand the process by which this whole school cell tower mess came to be,” Scarato stated of her interest in the minutes.
The Open Meetings Compliance Board’s opinion stated that the PGCPS School Board violated § 3-307, “which provides that a public body’s “written minutes” “shall be open to public inspection during ordinary business hours.” In reference to the request for the 2014 minutes, the Opinion found “that the school board did not comply with that requirement;
The Cell Tower Policy initially started out as Policy 0123 but was subsequently modified, discussed in several Board meetings and ultimately changed to Policy 3600. Community members have raised concerns about the lack of transparency in the process as school cell tower permits have moved forward without the knowledge of PTA members, parents and neighbors.
“I still have lots of unanswered questions.” stated Scarato. “For example, the Policy states that the CEO should inform the Board of cell tower proposals but I cannot find a record of this notice given to the Board. PGCPS states they have no documents pertaining to such notice. So far I cannot find any minutes that show it. Were they ever notified? ”
The full complaint was filed by Craig O’Donnell on December 22, 2014. PGCPS initially responded that O’Donnell lacked “standing”
The PGCPS Board also was found not to have members trained in the open Meetings Act as defined in section 3-213(b). The PGCPS Board conceded this in their February 20, 2015 response to the complaint and responded that they are acting “to require designees complete the approved online training required by this section by April 1, 2015 and to confirm with the OMCB when the training is complete.”
The OMCB Opinion concludes that, “Ms. Scarato should have been told that the fastest way to see minutes is to appear in person, and, when she did appear in person, she should have been given all the minutes that were on hand and told why some were not. The school board, as it has acknowledged, must comply with the Act’s training requirement.”
The Prince George’s County Board of Education has been under scrutiny since the controversial school cell tower deal came into the public purview in 2014. The Maryland Coalition Against Cell Towers at Schools (MCACTS) was formed in 2014 and momentum has been building against school cell tower placements across the state.
This month, House Bill 727 passed the Anne Arundel delegation unanimously. It would allow for a moratorium on all new school cell tower construction. The Prince George’s County MCACTS Contingent is calling for a cancellation of school cell tower leasing contracts in Prince Georges County and their petition currently has over a thousand signatures. Most recently, the Maryland Coalition Against Cell Towers at Schools released e-mails that show direct emails between the cell tower vendor, Milestone Communications, and individual PGCPS Board of Education members raising questions of proper procedure.
The OMCB Opinion can be found at http://www.safeschoolspg.org
For interviews please contact safeschoolspg@