OC town council violates Open Meetings Act following pier agreement
OCEAN CITY, Md. – A deal to extend the franchise agreement for the Ocean City’s iconic fishing pier and Jolly Roger amusement park has become quite the controversy after residents learned that the city council and mayor didn’t exactly play by the rules.
“They had met secretly to strike down the old ordinance, renegotiate it, and extend it another 25 years to take it out to 2054,” said resident, Vincent Gisriel Jr.
Gisriel tells 47 ABC that the community was kept totally in the dark about the new pier franchise agreement and resolution until it was posted to the town’s website just five days before it’s first reading back in 2019.
“I believe in open dialogue, full transparency, and when you’re adopting an ordinance or dismantling an old ordinance and rewriting a new one, that should all be out in the public view.”
After finding out what happened, Gisriel filed a complaint with Maryland’s Open Meetings Compliance Board who in fact found that the Mayor and City council were in violation of Maryland’s Open Meetings Act.
“It was never our intention to violate the Open Meetings Act. We thought that we were following proper guidelines,” said Mayor Rick Meehan.
“Had the public been involved from day one they would’ve had input and would have insisted on a better deal for the taxpayers of Ocean City,” said Gisriel.
Mayor Meehan adds that after having this brought to his attention -it’s a lesson he’ll remember moving forward.
“We’re certainly reviewing that now and we’re going to do everything that we can to make sure that doesn’t happen in the future,” said Meehan.
Residents in the area are now asking the mayor and city council to repeal the new pier franchise agreement, have an independent audit and appraisal to determine the true value of the franchise, and renegotiate and adapt a new ordinance in full public view.