March 24, 2015 11:14 pm ET
County refuses to turn over constable reports in burglary case. Trial set for March 26.
Source: Ignored Again (Naturally)
Here is a little quiz for you:
When it comes to obeying the law, Baltimore County:
A. Follows procedures to the letter of the law
B. Follows the spirit of the law
C. Both A and B
D. None of the above
If you chose D, then you get an A (and a gold star). Because, quite frankly, the only way Baltimore County can say it follows the letter of the law is if that letter is an F, because the County fails time and time again.
And as for the spirit of the law, the only spirit is an apparition, because you don’t stand a ghost of a chance when trying to get the County to follow the rules.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “How can they do that and get away with it?” My response is, sadly, “Because they can.”
But this is just the latest in a series of missteps concerning the County sweeping information under the proverbial rug. The last time I went through this was in June 2012, when I filed a PIA regarding the Mainsail scandal.
You remember that, don’t you folks? That was the snafu in which the county lost $21 million in less than 30 days because of a very bad investment.
Despite all of its challenges, the county is very good at one thing—filing appeals, which is what it tried to do in the Mainsail case. However, the judge did not see it the County’s way, and I won the right to the papers and agreed not to discuss other issues concerning the matter.
So, as the old saying goes, “Here we go again.”
Right after I received the information on the burglary involving Mr. John Vontran and Deputy Sheriff Sgt. Mike Weiss, I was told to obtain a copy of the constable reports, which were very detailed regarding the case.
I was contacted by the Chief Constable, who wanted to make sure the men who responded to the scene of the burglary acted responsibly. I responded that they indeed did act responsibly, and quite admirably so.
After finding out about additional reports filed by the constables, I proceeded to send the following PIA:
Administrative Clerk – S. Michael Esposito
Baltimore County Courts
Baltimore County, MD 21286
Dear Mr. /Esposito:
I am seeking the following documents under the Public Information Act Law. Copies may be sent by e-mail and please notify me of any redactions and subsequent reason as to why any material was redacted?
In addition please notify me of any fees involved in this request.
A response may be sent using scanned documents and e-mail if appropriate.
If there are any questions regarding the data I am requesting please contact me at the above email address.
Public Information Request
To Baltimore County
Pursuant to the Maryland Public Records Act, State Government Articles §§10-611 to 628, the following documents are requested:
I am requesting the documents regarding the following information.
The response may be in the form of an e-mail containing scanned documents if applicable.
1. One copy of the report as written by the constables on the scene of the burglary that involved Sgt. Mike Weiss of the Baltimore County Sheriff’s Department and Jon Vontran. The incident occurred on July 11, 2014 at 710 Wise Ave., 21222.
If there is a fee please let me know.
And that, ladies and gentleman, was the last I had heard from Baltimore County on the matter.
Since I am a law abiding citizen, I like to refer to the law in such matters. Here is what the law states:
B. Time for Response
Under GP § 4-203(b), if a record is found to be responsive to a request and is recognized to be open to inspection, it must be produced “immediately” after receipt of the written request. An additional reasonable period “not to exceed 30 days” is available only where the additional period of time is required to retrieve the records and assess their status under the PIA. A custodian should not wait the full 30 days to allow or deny access to a record if that amount of time is not needed to respond. If access is to be granted, the record should be produced for inspection and copying promptly after the written request is evaluated. Similarly, when access to a record is denied, the custodian is to “immediately” notify the applicant. GP § 4-203(c)(i). Within ten working days after the denial, the custodian must provide the applicant with a written statement of the reasons for the denial in accordance with GP § 4-203(c)(2). This 10-day period is in addition to the maximum 30-day or (with an agreed extension) 60-day periods for granting or denying a request. Stromberg Metal Works, Inc. v. University of Maryland, 382 Md. 151, 158-59 (2004). However, in practice, the denial and explanation generally are provided as part of a single response.
So, what does that mean? Simply put, the County broke the law.
Surprise, surprise. Is anyone else shocked? Flabbergasted? Up in arms?
(Cue the sound of crickets…)
That is what I thought. Unfortunately, for most of us, the County violating the law is just another routine event in this area where the bad get worse and the worse get worser [sic] … in more ways than one.
As you read in the sub-headline, the trial date on the matter is coming up this week. To that end, I can wait and see what will happen. The Baltimore City State’s Attorney may try to sweep the case under that proverbial rug, or the SA may be a little bolder and put the matter on the STET docket, where a small breeze would blow the whole issue away.
As always, time will tell.
To make matters even more interesting, the deputy who is also charged in the case is still working, which is one for the Ripley books (as in, “Believe it or not.”) One would hope that keeping an officer charged with a crime would never happen in the Police Department because there is a regulation prohibiting that.
But, then again, one never knows these days.
It will be interesting to see how this trial turns out given the Sheriff’s former position in the City Police Department.
It will also be interesting to see what’s in those top secret constable reports that, according to my sources, were just turned over to the city SA by the County Judge.
Rest assured, folks, we will find out what the true story is. And you can take that Harford Federal Bank, since I don’t trust the “Baltimore County Branch of Transparency and Trust.”
Let’s just hope that I avoid the substantial penalty for early withdrawal…