When it Comes to Government Openness, Maryland Is a ‘Backwater’

A government geek who hoped to flip open her laptop and watch the Maryland State Ethics Commission in action on Thursday was in for a disappointment.

The panel, which met at 9 a.m. in its office near the State House, has never live-streamed its meetings.

Critics say requiring the public to attend board and commission meetings in person makes it all-but-impossible for time-pressed and far-flung citizens to be full participants in their government — particularly during a pandemic.

“Maryland is a backwater when it comes to government openness,” said longtime journalist Tom Sherwood, political analyst for the “Politics Hour” on WAMU (88.5 FM), the NPR station in the Washington, D.C., region.

“It seems to not take it seriously. I think the state would be embarrassed — both the Democrats who control the legislature and the governor,” Sherwood said. 

In an email, Jennifer Allgair, the Maryland State Ethics Commission’s new executive director, said the panel held its meeting “at 45 Calvert St in Room 164, which is the large training room. Since it was a larger room and extra seating was provided for members of the public (spaced 6 ft apart), the Commission did not have a livestream for the public portion of the meeting.” Read more