Maryland's Big Ten vote has legal questions

Wednesday November 21st, 2012

Maryland officials may have violated the state's Open Meetings Act when decided to move to the Big Ten Conference. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The legality of Maryland’s move to the Big Ten Conference is being questioned because the meetings that were conducted may have been in violation of Maryland's Open Meetings Act, reports the Washington Post.

Officials met twice to sort out the logistics of Maryland's move to the Big Ten, once on Sunday afternoon where 12 of the 17 regents participated in a conference call with school officials. The second meeting happened on Monday where 10 regents met in Baltimore and four others joined via telephone. The regents voted 13 to 1 to endorse the move to the Big Ten.

Those meetings — unannounced and entirely out of public view — appear to have been in violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act, according to legal experts. The act lays out rules for gatherings of public entities such as the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents, which the governor appoints to oversee most of the state’s public colleges and universities.

“The law is unmistakable that you can’t just close the meeting because you feel like it,” said Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Arlington County. LoMonte added that the vote could be at risk of being voided. With the amount of money at stake here, they would be smart to hit the restart button. If I was the ACC and looking to throw a wrench in the plans . . . I would seize upon this.”

According to Maryland law, regents are allowed to meet in closed session to discuss some issues, but they are required to first take a public vote to close. Maryland chose to leave the ACC, where it had been a charter member since 1953.

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