February 19, 2015 7:07 pm ET
County to turn down PIA request for constable reports on burglary
Source: Access Denied
It sounds like Burt the Turtle is getting ready to duck and cover again…
Sources inside the county have revealed that a recent PIA request will be denied. The request, made on February 1, was to view the reports written by the constables arriving on the scene of the burglary at 710 Wise Ave., about which I have written extensively.
The reason that will be given for the denial, from what I was told, is that the reports are “departmental records.”
Let that one sink in a moment, folks. Now, with that in mind, what else would one request from a governmental department but department records???
Needless to say, I kind of saw this one coming. I thought something was askew when I had not heard anything after filing the request to Administrative Clerk S. Michael Esposito of the Baltimore County Courts.
Sources had told me that the constables’ reports were far more detailed than the police reports about the incident.
The denial is perplexing, especially when you consider what the State of Maryland suggests regarding response to a PIA request:
(ii) If an applicable exemption permits, but does not require, that information be withheld from disclosure, carefully consider how you will exercise the discretion that the law gives you. In general, disclose the record unless doing so would cause a harm to the public interest that you can describe.
(iii) If no exemption applies, disclose the record unless, within 10 days, your agency will go to court for an order allowing you to withhold the record on the ground that disclosure would cause “substantial injury to the public interest.” Courts will likely grant such orders only in extraordinary circumstances.
The rules get worse for those withholding such items.
E. Complete the retrieval and review process as quickly as possible, but in any case within 30 days of receiving the request, unless the requester agrees to an extension
(i) If you determine that records are to be disclosed, notify the requester immediately that the records are available for inspection or copying.
(ii) If you determine that the records are to be withheld in whole or in part, promptly send the requester a letter explaining why those records are exempt from disclosure, citing legal authority and telling the requester how to seek review of your decision.
To date, I have received no e-mail, letter, or any other correspondence regarding this matter, and—no—I’m not a mind reader, nor do I have a key to the locked doors at the county records department.
The question arises as to why the county would deny access to these records.
Could they raise the issue of “pre-trial publicity?” Seriously, folks, even though I would like to think the entire world reads this blog, turning a trial on its head over something I write here is not likely.
Are those records top secret, and releasing them would damage our safety within the borders of Baltimore County?
Again, not likely.
My legal counsel advised me to file another PIA (since that is the only language they understand) and ask how many requests for constable reports have been filed during the last three years, along with a question about if there were any denials of releasing such records to the public, as well as the reason.
My best guess to the answers would be “zippo, nada, and none.”
So the only conclusion I can come to is summed up with the term “COVER UP!”
One more thing before I leave you with this latest version of “As the County Turns,” (or “White House Antics Rule in BC”). Let me assure those who think the scandal in Cambridge (or at least those who can remember it) is far from over that it is definitely not over in my blog.
To borrow (and change) an old saying: “I have not yet begun to write!”
Stay tuned. Things are about to get “messy.”