Kagan Files Complaint Against Rockville Elections Board

December 18, 2023

Montgomery Perspective

Senator Cheryl Kagan has filed an Open Meetings Act complaint against the Rockville Board of Supervisors of Elections.  In the complaint, she alleges that the board excluded her from an open meeting in violation of state law.  The complaint caps a season of discord between the board and the senator.

The issues between Kagan and the board began when she sent a mailer supporting five candidates in November’s city council races.  (Four of them won.)  The board then sent a letter to Kagan asking her to file a campaign finance report for the expenditure and raising the question of whether the mailer was a genuine independent expenditure or an unlawful contribution to the endorsed candidates.  Kagan responded by filing a campaign finance report which appears on the city’s website.

That was not the end of it.  Kagan attended a city board of elections meeting on election night and was ejected.  Following is her account of what happened from her complaint.


The City of Rockville’s municipal election was held on November 7, 2023. After the polls closed and the paper ballots were canvassed at the Montgomery County Board of Elections (“Montgomery County BOE”), the City of Rockville’s Board of Supervisors of Elections (“Rockville BSE”) convened an unscheduled and unpublicized meeting at approximately 1:00 am, when issues related to the election were likely discussed. The appointed Chair of the City’s BSE unilaterally announced that the meeting would be closed and ejected me as well as an observer for one of the candidates. This was done without following appropriate procedures to close the meeting. I am seeking a written opinion from the Open Meetings Compliance Board that the Rockville BSE violated Maryland’s Open Meetings Act.

After polls closed at 8pm and through the early morning hours of November 8, 2023, Rockville’s paper ballots (for Mayor and Council as well as four ballot measures) were canvassed at the Montgomery County BOE office in Gaithersburg with County staff overseeing the process. In addition to BSE members, this was observed by Theodore Kiviat, who was there in his capacity as a certified election watcher for Council candidate (now Councilmember) Adam Van Grack. I joined him near the end of the canvass as an observer.

At roughly 1am, when the canvass had been completed, the MoCo BOE handed a printout with the unofficial election results to the Rockville City Clerk. City staff and members of the Rockville BSE were immediately summoned into a conference room in the basement of the Montgomery County BOE. When Mr. Kiviat and I followed them into the room, we were addressed by Robert Kurnick, Chair of the Rockville BSE, who insisted that we were not entitled to be present and demanded that we leave. After I protested his order, we were again directed to leave the room. City Clerk Taylor-Ferrell kindly held the sheets with the election results against the door for us to photograph before the door was shut behind us. Roughly ten minutes later, the secret meeting adjourned and the unofficial results were publicly announced on social media and on the City of Rockville’s website.

For years, I have sponsored and enacted legislation requiring transparency in Maryland government… and particularly in our election process. It was shocking, therefore, to be ousted from a meeting of the Rockville BSE in what I believe to have been a clear violation of Maryland’s Open Meetings Act (OMA). Unceremoniously, and without the required vote to close this meeting to the public, Mr. Kiviat and I were ordered to leave the conference room.

Neither I nor the public knows what was discussed in that private BSE meeting, since both Mr. Kiviat and I were excluded. There was no report or minutes from the November 8th meeting that were shared at the BSE’s open meeting on November 14, 2023.


Kagan filed a complaint with the Open Meetings Compliance Board and also appeared in person at a December 14 elections board meeting to repeat her allegations.

Kagan appears before the Rockville elections board to inform them of her complaint.


So what is the potential problem here?  The Open Meetings Act allows public bodies to hold closed meetings for one of fifteen purposes outlined in the act.  However, there are certain procedural requirements for closing a meeting.  The state’s quick guide comments:


Each closed session must be preceded by an open session for which the public body has given notice. In the open session, the presiding officer must conduct a recorded vote on a motion to close the session. The presiding officer must also prepare a written statement, or “closing statement,” that cites the part of the Act that contains the applicable exception, lists the topics to be discussed in the closed session, and gives the public body’s reason for excluding the public. A member of the public in attendance may object to the decision and inspect the closing statement. A public body may not meet in a closed session until it has designated one or members to take training in the Act. Further, a designated member must attend the open session beforehand, or, if no designated member can attend, the public body must complete the compliance checklist (see #8) and attach the checklist to its minutes.


The guide also states, “Public bodies must draft and adopt minutes for any meeting subject to the Act, whether open or closed. The public body must also create and retain written meeting notices and closing statements. The Act requires public bodies to retain its minutes and any tape recording of a meeting for at least five years.”

If Kagan’s account is accurate, the board’s action does not resemble anything contained in state law.

The Open Meetings Act is enforced by the state’s Open Meetings Compliance Board, which is appointed by the governor.  The board has no power to levy sanctions against violators but it can issue advisory opinions on allegations which are listed on its website.

And so the city elections board might get slapped on the wrist by the state’s compliance board if it sustains Kagan’s allegations.  The bigger problem for the elections board is Kagan herself, who is the vice chair of the State Senate’s committee that oversees election law and has legislated on elections since the 1990s.  Kagan has one of the longest memories in Annapolis.  She is the last person I would want to illegally toss out of a public meeting.

A copy of Kagan’s complaint can be downloaded below.

Sen Cheryl Kagan Open Mtgs Complaint Dec 2023