This article was updated at 3:30 p.m. April 6, 2022, to clarify Council Member Andrew Friedson’s comments and correct references to the composition and pay for the Police Accountability Board and Administrative Charging Committee. 

The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday agreed on salaries for a new board that will review allegations of police misconduct. However, the council has yet to vote to formally create the board, as well as a related committee that also will look at policing.

Before taking action, the county is monitoring pending state legislation that will decide whether the county has a July 1 deadline to create and appoint members to both oversight entities.

On Tuesday, the council voted 8-1 to approve a $10,000 annual salary for everyone on the nine-member Police Accountability Board, except one member who also will serve on a separate oversight committee and will not collect a board salary.

The county legislation is to create a Police Accountability Board and an Administrative Charging Committee, two separate bodies that would oversee cases involving alleged police misconduct, but with different roles. 

Under state law, the current deadline for the county to fill those boards is July 1. But during Tuesday’s meeting, multiple council members were texting state legislators from the council dais and reporting back to their colleagues that it was likely the deadline would be extended.

The five-member Administrative Charging Committee would review body camera footage from any alleged cases of police misconduct. It would review the overall investigation of a law enforcement agency officer in the county. It must make a determination within 30 days if an officer should face disciplinary action.

Law enforcement agencies must forward all complaints they receive to the Administrative Charging Committee. The committee can issue subpoenas of documents and witnesses, and request that county police investigate more or provide more information. 

Under a county bill, members of the committee would receive $16,000, except for the chair, who would receive $22,000. It would be adjusted annually based on the consumer price index. The County Council has not yet voted on that bill.

The Police Accountability Board, which is proposed in the same bill, would meet quarterly with the chiefs of law enforcement agencies across the county.

The board would advise the county executive and County Council on policing issues and review complaints of police misconduct filed by the public, before sending those to the Administrative Charging Committee for possible further action.

Once a quarter, the board also would review the outcomes of “disciplinary matters” considered by the Administrative Charging Committee.

Although pay for the Administrative Charging Committee was set in the county bill, pay for the Police Accountability Board was not. An amendment proposed by Council Member Will Jawando addressed Police Accountability Board pay.

When the council agreed on Tuesday on a $10,000 salary for Police Accountability Board members, Council Member Andrew Friedson was the only one to vote no.

Friedson didn’t explain his vote during the meeting, but later wrote in a text message, in response to a question from Bethesda Beat, that he supported the pay for the Administrative Charging Committee because it is “arguably quasi-judicial.”

But he was opposed to approving pay for the Police Accountability Board because it was being singled out for compensation among numerous county boards and committees. Friedson wrote that he preferred a “holistic” approach.

“We have dozens of county advisory boards, committees and commissions with thousands of volunteers who we don’t pay,” Friedson wrote. “So it is hard for me to justify paying some who volunteer to serve the county $10,000 a year while not compensating others who also dedicate significant time and talent on important issues.”

Friedson’s objection is a continuation of a debate from January 2020, when the County Council considered whether to pay people for serving on county volunteer boards and commissions.

County Council Member Craig Rice introduced a bill in January 2020 that would give volunteer members of any county board or commission a $1,200 stipend. The bill came after council members had approved a $2,000 stipend for eight members of the Racial Equity and Social Justice Advisory Committee in December 2019.

Rice’s bill expired in July 2021 without the council voting on it.

Although the Police Accountability Board and the Administrative Charging Committee would have different roles, they would be connected and overlap in some ways.

For example, the committee must include either the chair of the board or a designee. That member of the committee would not be paid a $10,000 salary for their work on the board.

The board would select two civilian members of the five-member committee. The county executive would choose the other two civilian members.

Members of the committee and the board would serve a maximum of two terms of three years each.

County Council President Gabe Albornoz said he wanted to wait until state legislation is finalized in Annapolis before the council votes on the overall bill. 

The council is on recess next week, so the earliest that could occur is April 19.

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com