A Cloudy Maryland Special Election Under the Cover of COVID-19

Screen shot of the video archived on the Anne Arundel County Central Committee facebook page. Depicts a livestream that began at 2:15 AM April 17 withlive voting for the candidate. Dana Jones won with 7 votes.

Questions and concerns have arisen regarding the filling of vacancies on the Maryland General Assembly following the recent closed Special Meeting conducted by the Anne Arundel County Democratic Central Committee on April 16.

Normally, when this Committee conducts a special meeting to interview candidates for Delegate, meetings are open to the public; people can attend, provide comments, and the media is invited as well. This meeting was anything but a normal, open, transparent and public meeting. In fact, the majority of the meeting was closed to the public, which some District 30A constituents feel is a critical issue.

On April 14, Chair Thea Boykins-Wilson sent out an email stating that the committee would pre-record their meetings and post videos to their Facebook page after candidate interviews were completed, in essence, declaring the meeting closed to the public. This raised red flags for several local activists regarding the Committee’s adherence to their own Bylaws and Maryland’s Open Meetings Act.

“I’ve heard from several elected officials within District 30A who were shocked by the process and the outcome,” said Yasemin Jamison, a local activist.

Closed meetings must comply with the Maryland Open Meetings Act and the Committee’s own bylaws. This did not happen. The Arundel Patriot is awaiting a response from DeJah Wilson, the Committee’s Parliamentarian and Chair of the Rules and Bylaws Committee for further details.

According to the bylaws of the Anne Arundel County Democratic Central Committee, members of the public should have been provided with an agenda, a dial-in number, and access code to witness the candidate interviews live via teleconferencing. This would have fulfilled the basic requirements of the Maryland Open Meetings Act. Instead, the Committee conducted their meeting entirely in private using Zoom.us videoconferencing.

Screenshot of the beginning of a video released by the Anne Arundel County Democratic Central Committee as the recording of the closed meeting to pick the D30A Delegate to replace Alice Cain.

On April 17 at 2:15 AM, the Committee announced the Election of Dana Jones to replace Delegate Alice Cain in District 30A. This announcement was shared as a Facebook live-stream video conference to the Committee’s Facebook page where 16 members are clearly seen and heard voting.

Later that same day, at 9:10 AM, the Committee shared a password protected pre-recorded video conference on their Facebook page where 19 prospective D30A candidates were interviewed.

The archived meeting is not in-full, and is missing the call to order, a roll-call of who is in attendance, a quorum in order to hold the meeting, or any motions that the committee took prior to interviewing candidates, or a motion to adjourn to a closed meeting.

According to Boykins-Wilson, a full transcript does not exist.

“When I saw people in the Zoom call who I know are not committee members, I was confused,” says Jamison who had requested that the meeting be an open meeting as per the committee bylaws. “Also, this video is obviously missing the beginning of the meeting. It begs the question of what is actually going on here? Where is the motion to close the meeting? What business was conducted before the recording began?”

Three days after the meeting, the Committee shared their Agenda for the April 16 special meeting on their website. By law, this should have been posted at least one week ahead of time.

Several days after the meeting, several of the candidates had not been contacted by the Committee letting them know who was elected to the open delegate position.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation of the AACDCC nominating process by Arundel Patriot journalists.

Author Carmen Skarlupka is Navy Veteran and she is certified by the Maryland Attorney General in the Open Meetings Act.

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