Council Committee Amends Jawando County Settlement Bill


A Montgomery County Council committee on Monday made changes to a bill requiring transparency over lawsuit settlements.

Council member Will Jawando drafted the bill, which went to full council in May. This would require the county attorney to report annually to the county council and the county executive the following details regarding the lawsuit settlements:

  • Which county division was involved and who filed the complaint
  • The amount of the settlement
  • What was the trial about

Many regulations involving the county and other parties are already required, according to the state’s public information law. But some are exempt, including those relating to personnel and medical records.

The annual report mandated in the bill “would provide better accessibility to taxpayers and improve regular oversight and accountability,” according to a report from board staff.

Under state law, county agencies have 30 days to respond to Maryland PIA requests.

The bill would also require the disclosure of more information than is currently in the county attorney’s office quarterly settlement reports, according to staff reports.

On Monday, the Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee adopted several amendments, including:

• Allow the county attorney’s office to independently settle cases up to $ 30,000. The previous limit was $ 5,000.

Council member Andrew Friedson said the new limit matches the minimum limit for public disclosure in civil cases in the county district court, as discussed during the bill’s public hearing last month. The committee approved Friedson’s change.

• Limit the scope of the bill to civil rights, employment, and discrimination cases related to the American With Disabilities Act and similar cases, at the request of County Attorney Marc Hansen. Cases involving debt collection, workers’ compensation and code enforcement could place an additional burden on his office, Hansen said Monday.

This still includes the case of a 5-year-old boy who was harassed and assaulted by county police at East Silver Spring Elementary School. Some county officials, including Chairman Tom Hucker and County Executive Marc Elrich, have said they support a resolution of the case.

• Require demographic data on applicants and employees accused of misconduct, as suggested by the Office of Legislative Oversight and the Silver Spring Justice Coalition.

The bill now returns to the full council for consideration.

Steve Bohnel can be contacted at [email protected]

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