Carroll County, Maryland

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Permits, zoning
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Transparency grading process

Carroll County is one of 24 counties in Maryland.

Website evaluation

See also: Evaluation of Maryland county websites

This site was last evaluated on March 22, 2013.

The good

  • Elected Officials
    • Elected officials are listed with a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.[1]
  • Administrative officials[2]
    • Department heads are listed for each department.
    • Contact information for administrative officials is provided including a mailing address, phone number, and personalized email.
  • Meetings
    • Meeting minutes are archived for 5 years.[3]
    • Meeting agendas are archived for 7 years.[4]
    • A meeting calendar is available and names the times and locations of public meetings.
    • Meeting video or podcasts are available.
    • Information on public participation in meetings is provided.[5]
  • Contracts
    • Bids and RFPs are posted online.[6]
    • Completed bids are posted for 15 days after they are approved.[7]
    • The rest of the completed contracts can be found in meeting documents.
  • Budget
    • The most current budget is listed.
    • Budgets are archived for 9 years.[8]
  • Audits
    • The most recent audit is posted.
    • Audits dating back to 2007 are available.[9]
  • Permits and zoning
    • Zoning ordinances are posted online.
    • Permit applications can be downloaded on the site, along with information on how to apply for the permits.[10][11]
  • Taxes
    • Tax revenues are broken down by federal, state, and local funding in the budget.
    • Local taxes, like property taxes, are available online.[12]
  • Public records
    • The public information officer is identified and maintained by the County Attorney position. This person provides a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.
    • A public records form is provided by the County Attorney.
    • A fee schedule for documents is provided.[13][14]
  • Lobbying
    • County discloses that it is a member of Regional, State and National Organizations.[15] Membership dues for the organizations is also disclosed.

The bad

  • Contracts
    • We ask that completed contracts be separate from meeting minutes, located in a specific location on the site. Contract-specific areas of the site are only available for 15 days.

Transparency Criticisms

Despite earning high marks for having a transparent website, journalists with the Carroll County Times reported county officials are not as forthcoming with records as they could be. Since December 2010 there have been five open meetings compliance complaints filed against the board, with the board found in contempt of the act twice. [16]

A Times editorial criticized the board for its practices, saying "The Open Meetings Compliance Board has twice found this board of commissioners guilty of holding illegal meetings. In addition, the Compliance Board has raised concerns about practices that, while not illegal, are not in line with governments intent on operating in the light of day. One example was when the board used an email exchange to decide an issue. The board also started redacting information from public information requests, and Commissioner Richard Rothschild said at the time that if anyone doesn’t like it they can sue the county." [17]

Email Controversy

The Maryland Attorney General advised the Carroll County board to not redact the email addresses of private citizens who correspond with the county board. In Dec. 2011, the board unanimously voted to redact all email addresses from documents that are requested in PIA requests. In December 2012 the attorney general stated that emails cannot be unilaterally redacted and a temporary redaction requires a court action. [18]

The Maryland Public Information Act contains some exceptions to withholding email addresses, including senior citizens and students, the law does not permit officials to "unilaterally withhold an email address solely on the grounds that disclosure would substantially harm the public interest." The county attorney has argued that the public interest, i.e. people’s personal privacy, would be harmed if private citizens’ email addresses were released in PIA requests, the Times reported. [19]

The board opted to challenge the attorney general's advisement in court. [20]

External links

References

  1. Carroll County "Commissioners," Accessed March 13, 2013
  2. Carroll County "Directory," Accessed March 13, 2013
  3. Carroll County', Meeting Minutes, Accessed March 13, 2013
  4. Carroll County "Agenda," Accessed March 13, 2013
  5. Carroll County "Public Participation," Accessed March 22, 2012
  6. Carroll County "Bid Notices," Accessed March 13, 2013
  7. Carroll County, Current Bid Results, Accessed: March 20, 2013
  8. Carroll County "Budget," Accessed March 13, 2013
  9. Carroll County "Comptroller," Accessed March 13, 2013
  10. Carroll County "Permits," Accessed March 13, 2013
  11. Carroll County "Planning," Accessed March 13, 2013
  12. Carroll County "Collections/Taxes," Accessed March 13, 2013
  13. Carroll County, Attorney, Accessed March 13, 2013
  14. FOIA request form
  15. Carroll County, Regional, State and National Organizations, Accessed: March 20, 2013
  16. Carroll County Times, Open meetings complaints continue at record setting pace, Aug. 19, 2012
  17. Carroll County Times, Editorial: Openess of board 'deficient', July 12, 2012
  18. Carroll County Times, Attorney general advises Carroll against redacting emails, Jan. 3, 2013
  19. Carroll County Times, Attorney general advises Carroll against redacting emails, Jan. 3, 2013
  20. Carroll County Times, Carroll commissioners choose court rather than giving up email distribution lists, March 1, 2013