A Montgomery District Council committee on Monday made changes to a law that requires transparency in dispute resolution.
Councilor Will Jawando drafted the bill, which was presented to the full council in May. It would require the district attorney to report the following details to the district council and board of directors annually regarding the settlement of disputes:
- Which county department was involved and who filed the lawsuit?
- The settlement amount
- What the lawsuit was about
Many settlements involving the county and other parties are already required under the state public relations law. However, some are exempt, including those relating to personnel and medical records.
The annual report required by the draft law “would provide better accessibility for taxpayers and improve regular oversight and accountability,” said a report by the Council’s Staff Council.
Under state law, county authorities have 30 days to respond to Maryland PIA inquiries.
The bill would also require more information to be disclosed than is currently the case in prosecutor’s quarterly comparative reports, according to HR reports.
On Monday, the Council’s Government and Fiscal Policy Committee passed several changes, including:
• Enabling the District Attorney’s Office to independently resolve cases for up to $ 30,000. The previous limit was $ 5,000.
Councilor Andrew Friedson said the new limit corresponds to the minimum limit for public disclosure in civil matters in the district court, as discussed at the public hearing of the bill last month. The committee approved Friedson’s change.
• Limiting the scope of the bill to civil rights, employment and discrimination cases under the American With Disabilities Act and similar cases at the request of District Attorney Marc Hansen. Cases involving debt collection, employee compensation and the enforcement of laws could put additional strain on his office, Hansen said on Monday.
That still includes the case where a 5-year-old boy was molested and assaulted by county police at East Silver Spring Elementary School. Some district officials, including Council President Tom Hucker and District Executive Marc Elrich, said they would support the settlement of the case.
• Request demographic information on applicants and employees suspected of wrongdoing as suggested by the Office of Legislative Oversight and the Silver Spring Justice Coalition.
The draft law is now being sent back to the general council for review.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at [email protected]