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Below is the link to the entire Yuripzy Morgan show broadcast on April 17, 2019. The interview was with investigative journalist and Baltimore Post contributor Ann Costantino involving the BCPS document purge begins in the second hour of the program.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have been interviewed today on the Yuripzy Morgan Show on WBAL Radio. Since I am a writer, and not in broadcast, I did not know what to expect. Ms. Morgan was great.
I have only done one other radio interview, and when that happened, I was surprised that I was the guest for over half of the show (and I was not prepared for that). Because of that last experience, I made sure to be very prepared this time! But because it went so fast, there are few things I would have brought up, given the time.
Here they are:
- It’s like the closer I get to what I believe the truth is, the more is thrown my way to prevent my getting it. I do believe I am being stonewalled. Also, there are people coming out to discredit me, I believe, so that once I figure this out, what I find and share will not be taken seriously. I envision it almost like an endless cast of characters coming out of a clown car: all of a sudden, this stream of people, former board members, school officials and even people I don’t know – are coming out of the woodwork to discredit me for probing for answers and exposing what I find about the purge and other issues. The question is: Why?
- A few years ago, when I questioned the school system’s former superintendent, Dallas Dance, about his excessive travel and affiliation with an education consulting company, I was accused of being a racist.
- When I officially began reporting on the school system a couple of years ago, they called me a blogger and fake news. In fact, they still do.
- I have been called a “right-wing dingbat” and I am not even a Republican (no disrespect meant to Republicans). But this is not a partisan issue, anyway. Seeking the truth and, especially, on the topic of education in Baltimore County, is not a partisan issue. The bottom line here is the preservation of money for where it is needed: inside the classroom and with the students and their teachers.
When I discovered the record purge last August, at first it was nothing but “crickets” from the school system. In fact, there were crickets for quite a long while. They have only answered other media about the purge.
Despite the lack of supportive coverage from other media outlets, this story grew legs. People are smart. Baltimore County citizens are awake and have become aware. They know something is not right. And they also can see how significant this purge really is.
Think about this for a moment: You take six months to finally settle on the scope and time frame of a procurement audit that was triggered by criminal activity by the school system’s former leadership, but you shred financial disclosure statements that become part of the scope that is determined weeks after you shred them? These are documents that, by their nature, are designed to root out potential conflicts of interest as it relates to system procurement and contracts, by the way.
It’s not logical. It makes no sense. Yet even The Baltimore Sun has continued to minimize the significance of the purge. I mean no disrespect. I respect journalism. I respect the reporters, although we sometimes/often disagree. But in this case, I am being critical – absolutely.
Without researching the issue, or even talking to the only person who experienced this —me — The Sun’s editorial board, for instance, decided that the mass shredding was “a colossal lack of common sense” and not much more. This statement came right after a reporter first took credit for the discovery of the record purge.
But this is the problem. It is precisely this lack of pressure — which I believe is the job of the media to hold government and entities accountable – that is the problem. It is this absence of anyone holding them accountable and the “pass” the school system is getting from the rest of the media which is precisely why I think the school system feels “emboldened” to withhold the records – like the emails. And it is why I believe they are stonewalling me as much as they are.
I’m a freelance reporter, I don’t have the resources that the bigger papers have.
I have reached out to other media outlets for help with this investigation and they are wholly disinterested. I don’t have their support which means the citizens are not served. And I have asked for help several times.
You know, for months, there was this big to-do concerning the release of a draft version of the long awaited procurement audit that was supposed to ensure that procurement at the school system was not unduly influenced. A debate about it went on and on for about an hour at a school board meeting last week. Why isn’t the same fervent curiosity there for why these records were destroyed? Especially considering when they were. Why pick on a draft audit, but you have this big mystery sitting here and you don’t question it?
Since discovering the purge last year, I have requested and received numerous documents. But I can tell when I’m getting closer and closer to what actually occurred because it gets more and more difficult to obtain information. And the closer I get, the more I am attacked as being fake news, “some blogger from the east side.” And, generally, just a troublemaker who has nothing better to do but to tear the school system down. I have even been accused of being against public education.
I actually don’t much care what I am called. All I want is the information I am seeking. Period. It is that simple.
- Last month I asked for these official “certificates of destruction” the school system gets from shredding companies at the completion of mass shredding of the system’s other sensitive documents. Although I found out that almost 275,000 thousand pounds of documents were destroyed last year, a response to an open record request revealed that there were no such certificates for the financial disclosure records purge or any of shredding days that involved them.
- I then asked for documentation regarding anyone who may have been hired to do the job. The law office said it didn’t exist. I asked for receipts, a payment detail, even invoices, but nothing, nothing, and nothing.
So when I struck out there, I requested the emails last month and, as you can see, six out of seven of them have been denied because they are protected under some type of privilege because they are a “work product?!?!” And only a very benign email – which contained information everyone already knows – was provided?
This whole thing has reached ridiculous levels. Even the attorney who directed the purge of the 2,600 financial disclosure statements is the one with whom I have had to interact all of this time, as I try and gather this data on the purge. She won’t answer questions, so I am forced to submit a series of MPIA (Maryland Public Information Act) requests as a way to figure out the mystery of the purge.
Believe it or not, it gets even worse than this. Saving that for later.
As I said, the closer I get to what I believe to be the truth, the stranger and stranger things are getting. So when a WBAL-Radio producer reached out to me yesterday, I was thrilled to share this story with WBAL and its listeners. And I sincerely thank WBAL for this opportunity.