County refuses to release names of Board of Education applicants

imageUPPER MARLBORO – Eight people have applied for the Board of Education seat vacated by Dan Kaufman, but county officials refused to disclose the names of the applicants to The Sentinel.

Tehani Collazo, the county executive’s education policy advisor, said County Executive Rushern Baker III’s office will not release the names, citing issues of confidentiality and privacy. The legal counsel for Baker suggested that under the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) general provisions (GP) four through 101 and beyond, they have a justification for withholding names since they are only in the “accepting applications” stage of selecting an at-large board member.

“If you are simply jotting down a list of names to consider for the BOE vacancy, a strong argument can be made that the list of names could be withheld as an ‘intra-agency letter or memorandum’ under the MPIA exemption, found under GP 4-344,” Collazo said in an email response to The Sentinel.

In addition, the legal counsel advised that because the application process remains ongoing, all information pertaining to the applicants will come from the application documents, which are also considered “personal documents.”

“If you are at the stage where you are accepting applications, under GP 4-311, the names of those seeking appointment to an office may not be disclosed if the information is derived from their applications because they would be considered as ‘personnel records,’” Collazo said.

Baker’s legal counsel sought the rulings of the case of Office of the Governor v. Washington Post Company from 2000 and a letter from Assistant Attorney General Kathryn M. Rowe to Senator Leo E. Green in 2002. The case in 2000 ruled that government officials have no obligation under the MPIA to disclose any memoranda, letter, or similar internal government documents, which contain confidential conversations, that are used in the decision-making process. The letter from Rowe to Green speaks specifically to the release of the names applicants to the Board of Education citing applications as personal records, which are prohibited from being disclosed under law.

While Baker’s office cites the law as justification for not disclosing the applicants’ names, some citizens involved in Prince George’s County Public Schools said feel the county administrations needs to have more transparency.

Felicia Meadows, an employee and “product” of Prince George’s County Public Schools, said she believes one person shouldn’t have “sole responsibility in the selection of something that affects a large organization.”

“There is a distrust of political officials overall, therefore transparency is needed to regain the trust of the people,” Meadows said. “In every other arena, full disclosure of applicants is made available to ensure that candidates are qualified and can meet the needs of the positions for which they are applying.”

Meadows, said she hopes Baker will select a board member who is dedicated to the needs of the children in the district, rather than personal agendas.

“People who are selected to sit on the Board should have a vested interest in education and our children and not use their position for personal or professional gain,” Meadows said.

Via Prince George’s county sentinel

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