According to Charlie Rich, "no one knows what goes on behind closed doors." He sure has it right in Montgomery County, where the county council has opted to hide its proceedings from public view scores of times during the past year. Why? Certain things are clear. Some members don't want the people to see their execution of various vendettas, and others need to hide their waffling or lack of knowledge on a variety of issues. But when does the public interest get served? Not until all council meetings are open to the public. Reform-minded Democrats have been advocating such a course at the national level for many years. Thank God we have one in Montgomery County like Neal Potter. Even with Mr. Potter, however, change will not come until the Maryland state legislature enacts GOP state Sen. Howard Denis' bill, which would require all Maryland county councils to meet in public. The Age of Aquarius began 20 years ago. It's time now for our Democratic friends to let the sun shine in.


Silver Spring

The Post {"Secret Government in Maryland," Feb. 6} cites a report supplied by Sen. Denis which says that the Montgomery County Council has had 45 closed sessions in the past year "to consider high-level political appointments." That is simply not so. Half of our 44 closed sessions in the last year had nothing to do with appointments at all. They dealt with land acquisition, litigation and contractual matters for which no one is questioning the need for confidentiality. This council has actually been in closed session less than the previous council. The number of closed sessions is less a matter of a disposition to secrecy than a function of the number of lawsuits pending.

As for "high-level" appointments, these are few and far between. We have made three important appointments that were the subject of several closed sessions each. But we have hundreds of confirmations of appointments to boards, committees and commissions for which citizens volunteer to serve, many with no compensation. In most cases there is no reason to go into closed session. But occasionally, when one or more council members feel that there is something derogatory about an applicant that ought to be communicated, we do go into closed session.

Should the law be amended to prohibit this practice? Should we attempt to protect the reputation of those who volunteer? Should we hold our tongues and not communicate derogatory information? Should we stay within the law and communicate via conference call? Or should people applying for any kind of service be put on notice that they are fair game for a public discussion of their qualifications or lack thereof?

These are all good questions. The council itself is divided and welcomes the debate.


President, Montgomery County Council