Policies and Procedures
Public participation in boards, committees, and commissions contributes to the work of County government and provides a valuable service to the community by presenting the concerns and viewpoints of County residents on a variety of issues. The purpose of this information is to familiarize these participants with Montgomery County’s policies and procedures as they relate to service on County committees.
The policies and procedures shown here apply to members of the boards, committees and commissions listed on this site.
Most committees have members who are appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Council, although some committees are appointed by the Council. Committees appointed by the County Council include the Montgomery County Planning Board, the Board of Appeals, and the Merit System Protection Board. Six of the eleven members of the Charter Review Commission are also appointed by the Council.
Applications for membership on all County committees are solicited through press releases to the news media, advertisements on Montgomery County Cable Channel 6, and mailings to umbrella civic associations and community groups that have requested them. Individuals may be on the mailing list maintained by the offices of the County Executive. Notices of vacancies are posted in the government centers and libraries. Press releases describe the duties of the committee for which membership is being solicited, outline special requirements for membership, request a resume including home address and home and office phone numbers, and include a deadline for application. Applicants respond to requests for membership by submitting a letter and resume to the appointing authority indicating interest in serving on a specific committee.
The Council will not consider applications received after an announced deadline for positions on Council-appointed Boards, Committees, and Commissions. However, if a majority of Councilmembers agree to consider late applications, then the time period for receipt of applications will be reopened for all applicants and the deadline for applications will be extended.
In making appointments the appointing authority considers the following: diversity of background and professions; relevant experience and expertise; and geographic, gender and ethnic balance. Some committees have special qualifications (profession, organization membership, etc.) for some or all members. The selection process may include interviews by the County Executive or his designees and/or by the County Council. In the case of appointments made by the County Executive, the names of those selected to serve on a committee are forwarded to the Council for confirmation. When an appointment has been approved by a majority of the Council, the individual receives notice of appointment by mail. The applications and resumes of those who are appointed become public documents.
The length of appointment may vary. Most committees have a standard term of three years. It is generally intended that terms be staggered to allow for continuity. To promote participation, Council policy is that no individual should serve more than two consecutive full terms or serve on more than one committee at any one time, unless two-thirds of the Councilmembers voting grant a waiver and confirm the appointment.
When applying for reappointment, members need to indicate their current employment in their letter of application.
Financial disclosure statements will be required by applicants, in some instances.
Guidelines for Committee Operation - back to top
The purpose, membership, and function of each committee is outlined in the law, resolution, or executive order which establishes it. Some boards, committees and commissions are created by County law as required by State and Federal law. The majority are initiated by County Executive and/or County Council action.
The State Open Meetings Act applies to County committees and requires that committees give reasonable advance public notice of meetings. Meetings must be open to the public and be held in an accessible public place. Notices of upcoming meetings are published by the County Executive’s Office in an official monthly schedule which is posted in County buildings and distributed to interested citizens and the press. Notice includes the date, time, and place of the meeting. If there is insufficient time to give notice in the official listing, notice of the meeting must be posted in a public place in the building in which the meeting will be held and in either the Executive Office Building or the Council Office Building.
A committee may hold a closed session only for the reasons set forth in the State Open Meetings Act. A statement of the time, place, and purpose of the closed meeting, and a record of the vote of each member by which the meeting was closed must be included in the minutes of the next public meeting. The following reasons merit closing a meeting: discussions of a personnel matter; protection of personal privacy; acquisition of real property; business relocation or expansion; investment of public funds; marketing of public securities; obtaining legal advice; consulting about litigation; collective bargaining; public security; scholastic, licensing, or qualifying examinations; criminal investigations; other legal requirements; or preliminary discussion of procurement issues. A committee should obtain legal advice from the County Attorney’s Office before closing a meeting or concluding that a committee function is not subject to the State Open Meetings Act.
How the chair is selected varies by board, committee or commission. In some cases, the members of the boards, committees or commissions elect their own leaders. In others, the County Executive and/or the County Council appoint the chair and vice chair.
The committee chair is responsible for setting the time and place of meetings and preparing agendas. Unless a committee has adopted rules of procedure or bylaws, committee meetings may be conducted informally, but the parliamentary procedures of Robert’s Rules of Order govern formal actions or decisions on controversial matters. Unless specified otherwise in law, a simple majority of membership constitutes a quorum for the transaction of business. The frequency of meetings of a particular board, committee or commission may be prescribed in the legislation which creates the body.
Some committees performing quasi-judicial functions are subject to the Administrative Procedures Act which governs the processing of administrative appeals, ex parte communications, and other matters which require quasi-judicial hearings.
The State Open Meetings Act requires public bodies to keep written minutes of all meetings for one year. The minutes should be prepared as soon as practicable and, except for minutes of a closed session, should be open to public inspection during ordinary business hours. The Chair of the committee must designate the appropriate person to record the minutes of the meetings and in the case of public minutes transmit a copy as soon as practicable to the County’s Public Information Office. The original minutes should be kept in the official files of the committee. Minutes should include the names of those in attendance; the date, time, and place of the meeting; any items considered during the course of the meeting; all actions taken; and any recorded votes taken.
At least annually, each committee must report to the County Executive and County Council on the following: the committee’s functions, activities, accomplishments, plans and objectives, including recommendations for changes in committee functions. The law or resolution establishing a committee may specify the dates when reports are due or the subjects to be included in the reports. Advisory committees may also wish to testify to the County Council on issues of relevance to their committee responsibilities. Committees that are advisory to the Council and Executive should notify the Office of Intergovernmental Relations prior to presenting testimony or taking a position before other entities such as the State government.
Unless law provides another method, a member of a committee who misses more scheduled meetings or hearings than the allowed absences, or who misses 3 consecutive meetings, is automatically removed. Allowed absences are as follows:
When a member is removed through absence, the presiding officer of the committee must promptly notify the County Executive and all members of the committee, including the member being removed. The County Executive may waive the resignation for illness, emergency, or other good cause.
If compensation is prescribed, it will be established by law, resolution, or appropriation. Members of both compensated and non-compensated boards may request reimbursement for mileage and dependent care at rates established by the County. The member submits the appropriate form and receives a check via mail when the form has been processed.
The County Executive and County Council designate staff as liaison for committees. Generally, the role of staff is to assist in providing notice of meetings, recording minutes, transmitting meeting materials, and meeting recordkeeping requirements under supervision of their department or agency head.
Generally, the Montgomery County Public Ethics Law prohibits committee members from participating in matters that involve an economic or fiduciary interest of the member. Committee members are also prohibited from participating in a matter that involves an economic interest of a relative. Relatives includes siblings, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, a spouse, a spouse’s relatives and the spouses of these relatives.
The ethics law prohibits committee members from accepting or soliciting gifts from lobbyists and persons doing business with or regulated by the agency with which the committee is affiliated. A committee member must not solicit a gift while identifiable as a member of the committee unless expressly authorized to do so for the benefit of the County by the appropriate authority.
A committee member must comply with the employment provisions of the ethics law. A committee member is not required to obtain approval for employment with respect to employment held when the member was appointed if the committee member publicly disclosed the employment relationship to the appointing authorities before appointment. A committee member must not seek a contract with the County or take as a client an entity that contracts with or is regulated by the agency with which the committee member is affiliated without first referring the matter to the Ethics Commission. A committee member should not represent a person if the person’s interest is adverse to that of the County without first referring the matter to the Ethics Commission.
A committee member must not disclose confidential information or attempt to use the prestige of the member’s office for private gain or the gain of another. A committee member must not use an official County agency title or insignia in connection with any private enterprise or use a County facility or property for personal use or the use of another unless the use is generally available to the public.
This description of the public ethics law is intended to provide a general overview only. In specific cases, the ethics law itself should be consulted and, where appropriate, a request for an advisory opinion or waiver made to the Ethics Commission.
Committee chairpersons are responsible for reviewing County Ethics law periodically with committee membership. Each committee member has a responsibility to adhere to the County’s sexual harassment and non-discrimination policies.
Committee members have liability protection under the Local Government Tort Claims Act for actions arising out of their scope of employ, i.e. their committee responsibilities. Committee members will also receive certain medical benefits; this coverage is limited, however, to benefits for reasonable medical treatment comparable to medical benefits payable under the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Act. Members must be registered with the County’s Risk Management System. Committee members should ask staff for the appropriate form.
Concerns about the functioning of committees or their staffing should be addressed to the committee chair and/or to the head of the department which provides staff support for the committee, the County Executive’s Special Assistant responsible for Boards, Committees, and Commissions, or to the President of the County Council.