POCOMOKE CITY, MD - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland has filed a second complaint in a month against Pocomoke City officials for violations of the Maryland Open Meetings Act (MOMA). The latest complaint concerns unannounced, closed meetings held by Town Officials in late June, during which the decision was made to fire Pocomoke's first African American Police Chief, Kelvin Sewell. The complaint was filed with the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board on behalf of Stephen Janis, a reporter for The Real News Network, a Baltimore-based non-profit news organization.
"How can Pocomoke residents not be concerned to learn that Town officials called secret meetings and pressured the Town's only African American elected official to fire the community's well-liked Police Chief? said Deborah Jeon, Legal Director for the ACLU of Maryland. "It violates state law when governments make important decisions behind closed doors without notice or explanation to the public and the press. Between barring media from public meetings and holding secret discussions, Pocomoke officials have a lot to answer for."
As with the ACLU's first complaint, which pertained to the media being barred from a Pocomoke Council meeting on July 13, this complaint again relates to Pocomoke City's controversial firing of Sewell. At the time of the firing, no explanation was given for the town's action, and many in the community - both black and white - were angry and upset. Despite extensive media attention and community demands for information in the weeks following Chief Sewell's firing, Pocomoke officials have remained silent about the process and basis upon which they arrived at their decision to terminate the chief.