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D.C. Board of Medicine Keeping the Public in the Dark — Unlawful Closed Sessions Says Open Gov’t Enforcement Agency

dcogcadmin | April 8, 2016 | Last modified: September 8, 2019

The D.C. Board of Medicine that regulates doctors, nurses and other health professionals here has done just about everything possible that could violate the Open Meetings Act, failing to follow the statute in at least four distinct ways, according to the watchdog Open Government Office, an independent agency of D.C. government.

In a strongly worded opinion issued yesterday (7) the Office concluded the board misunderstood and misapplied the law and warned that the problems may have spread further in the parent agency, D.C. Department of Health.  (Link below to opinion letter. Opinion letter also available on the Open Government office web site.)

Without apparent disagreement, an official of the Department said in an email to the Office today (8) they have “plans to ensure compliance with all requirements.”  The Coalition will continue its transparency watch, monitoring agency action to assure real open government, not just paper promises.

The Act requires such boards to provide the public with advance notices and agendas of meetings and full records afterwards. The board violated these requirements again and again, investigators reported. 

The Act also limits what may be discussed in closed sessions, and describing “the Board’s history of failing to follow the statutory regime,” investigators cited instances in almost every meeting in a full year where the board held private discussions about topics that should have been public and without the required notice and vote to close their sessions.  Three other boards in the same department did the same.

The Office, with a mandate to enforce the law, issued its opinion in response to a complaint filed in January by the D.C. Open Government Coalition. The Coalition, formed in 2009, is a citizens’ group that advocates for transparency in government. The Coalition has tracked adherence to the law by a sample of D.C. agencies for several years.