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Hearing Tonight on Ending Practice of Gag Orders in City Settlements

Hearing Tonight on Ending Practice
of Gag Orders in City Settlements

Scott and Sneed’s Bill Seeks To Codify an End to the Unconstitutional Practice

BALTIMORE, MD (September 16, 2019) — The Public Safety Committee of the Baltimore City Council will hold a hearing on Monday, September 16 at 5:00pm to discuss "Transparency and Oversight in Claims and Litigation" (19-0409), a bill introduced in July by Councilwoman Shannon Sneed (District 13) and co-sponsored by Council President Brandon M. Scott.

This morning, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced in a press release that he signed an executive order stating “unreasonable constraints will not be employed in the Release and Settlement Agreements routinely executed in the settlement of litigation against the City, its departments, agencies, commissions, officials, and employees.”

Council President Scott reaffirmed the need to pursue legislation in the City Council: “Let’s ensure future mayors of Baltimore do not have the power to arbitrarily reverse course when it comes to an individual’s right to free speech. I thank the Mayor for affirming our shared value of greater transparency and accountability in government and hope he will stand with the Council to ensure any of his successors can’t undo it.”

“After months of working with and listening to neighbors and advocates, I remain committed to passing this legislation. It is critical to ensuring non-disclosure agreements are not used to silence residents who have experienced an injustice,” said the bill’s sponsor, Councilwoman Sneed. “Executive orders are administration by administration, whereas an ordinance can only be undone by another ordinance.”

“Because this is taxpayer money being used to settle city claims, it should not come at the expense of silencing victims who have been wronged,” said Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer (District 5), who is Chair of the Public Safety Committee. “All taxpayers deserve to know where their money is going and why.” 

In July, the Court of Appeals found the Baltimore Police Department's practice requiring victims of police brutality and misconduct to sign non-disclosure agreements to be unconstitutional. 

The bill would prohibit the use of non-disclosure provisions in settlement agreements for police misconduct and unlawful discrimination claims filed against Baltimore City. It would also require the City's Law Department to publish information about claims filed. 

The ordinance has been in the works since last fall and is the result of collaboration with advocates, such as the ACLU of Maryland and the Campaign for Justice, Safety, and Jobs. You can view a copy of the legislation here.

Members of the public can follow the policy process for this bill and other initiatives outlined in Council President Scott’s Legislative and Policy Agenda using the Council President’s Legislative and Policy Tracker.

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