Maryland regents chairman: ‘unequivocal’ regret over violations of open-meetings law

The chairman of University System of Maryland Board of Regents said Friday that he has “unequivocal, unconditional” regret over the board’s failure to follow the state’s open-meeting law during deliberations last fall over an athletic conference switch.

“The law is what it is,” board Chairman James L. Shea said. “We intend to follow it.”

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Shea, who is also chairman of the Venable law firm, spoke in a telephone interview after the release this week of a report from a state compliance board that found that the regents violated open-meetings law “in multiple respects” in November.

At the time, regents were discussing plans for the University of Maryland to jump from the Atlantic Coast Conference to the Big Ten. They held two closed meetings on Nov. 18 and 19 to discuss the matter before officials announced the Big Ten move to the public.

In both cases, there was no public notice or public vote to go into closed session — a violation of the sunshine law, the state’s Open Meetings Compliance Board found in a report issued Tuesday.

“We saw right from the beginning that we made a mistake,” Shea said. “We didn’t follow the procedures of the act. The compliance board said that too. Everybody’s in agreement.”

The regents in January had sent a statement to the compliance board contending that lapses were harmless or “at worst technical.”

The compliance board rejected several arguments the regents advanced seeking to justify what happened. Instead, the compliance board mostly sided with state residents who had filed complaints.

But Shea said Friday that he accepts the compliance board’s findings and considers the matter closed. “The regret is unequivocal, unconditional,” he said.

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