From the City of Havre de Grace:
February 9, 2022
STATEMENT REGARDING CITY LAWSUIT CHALLENGING THE HARFORD COUNTY COUNCIL’S REDISTRICTING PROCESS
The Mayor and City Council of Havre de Grace believe that an open and transparent government is essential to a democratic society and that elected officials should be held accountable to the citizens.
Consistent with those principles, the Mayor and City Council filed on December 8, 2021 a lawsuit in the Harford County Circuit Court against Harford County and County Council members alleging, among other things, a violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act in connection with the adoption of the councilmanic redistricting plan reflected in Bill No. 21-025.
The Mayor and City Council filed the lawsuit because several County Council members admitted at the December 7, 2021 County Council meeting that they met in private when they rejected the bipartisan Redistricting Commission plan, which reflected the will of a majority of citizens who participated in that process – whether in person, through their elected municipal representatives, or by written communication. Instead, the County Council members chose to adopt their own plan devised in a manner that was closed to the public.
On January 27, 2022, the Circuit Court issued a memorandum opinion and order allowing the City’s case against the County defendants to proceed. In doing so, the Court recognized the merits of the City’s claim of an Open Meeting Act violation. Notwithstanding overcoming this initial threshold, however, the City recognizes that litigation is fraught with many uncertainties, risks, and costs. The City confirms that the recent voluntary dismissal of the case resulted from the “agreed upon process” referenced by the County Council members’ attorneys on social media on February 3, 2022.
While Bill No. 21-025 remains the law, the public is now aware of the flawed councilmanic redistricting process – a process that allows County Council members to reject the bipartisan Redistricting Commission plan without a formal public vote, and then reach consensus on their own redistricting plan devised through private deliberations not open to public view. This is not an example of transparent government. The Mayor and City Council encourage the citizens of Harford County to participate in reforming the redistricting process, making it more transparent and more responsive to the needs of the communities the County Council members represent.