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MDDC Presents “Making the Most of Media Relations” Panel at Maryland Municipal League Conference

MDDC brought together a panel of experts to share “How to Make the Most of Media Relations” at the Maryland Municipal League Fall Conference. Our session was held September 11 and attended by over 75 municipal government officials and staffers.

Jim Lee, editor, Carroll County Times, Adam Snyder, the chief counsel of the Opinions, Advice & Legislation Division of the Office of the Attorney General and Fred Sussman, attorney, Council, Baradel, Kosmerl & Nolan, P.A. joined MDDC executive director Rebecca Snyder (no relation to panelist Adam) and moderator Michael O’Connor, alderman for the City of Frederick for a robust discussion of how the Public Information Act (PIA) intersects with electronic media.

Each panelist spoke for about 10 minutes, and then the group dissected two issues: whether email lists were covered under PIA law, and the changing media landscape and how PIA is handled. The last part of the session was devoted to small discussion groups, with the participants weighing in on how they would approach two scenarios panelists provided.

Adam discussed the ambiguity of Maryland’s PIA law, noting that the electronic communication tools we have now were not available when the statute was written. However, he clearly emphasized that the PIA law was to be enforced liberally and that electronic communications, like emails and so forth are eligible for PIA disclosure. Jim shared how social media in particular could be a wonderful tool to engage and inform constituencies. Fred cautioned that social media policies should be in place to protect staffers.

Participants were engaged with the material and asked many questions. It was heartening to hear so many staffers clearly wanting to comply with PIA requests and work through issues. Thank you to our panelists, and to the Maryland Municipal League for the opportunity to share our perspectives.

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