30-day period aims to clarify meeting complaints

July 29, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

The state Open Meetings Compliance Board will clarify how it handles citizen complaints, including offering a 30-day window to clarify allegations of violations that are vague or incomplete, under an agreement reached with an Ellicott City parent.

The consent order, effective this week, comes nearly a year after Melody Higgins filed a lawsuit against the Howard County Board of Education and the state compliance board after it refused to consider claims she made alleging violations by the school panel.

While the agreement settles claims against the compliance board, the lawsuit against the school board remains open.

"It's absolutely fabulous that it has happened," Higgins said. "It could only make the Open Meetings Compliance Board better for the people."

Last July, Higgins asked the compliance board to investigate the legitimacy of a phone-poll decision by school board members and the legality of action taken regarding then-Superintendent John R. O'Rourke's salary during a closed meeting.

Higgins' request to the compliance board was the fifth such request since 2000 concerning the Howard County school board, which has repeatedly been accused of conducting business in secret.

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