County Ethics Commission brushes aside complaint, allows politicians to censor FB comments
Posted by Buzz Beeler on 17th September 2018
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The commission’s response was ludicrous. (Photo credit/Baltimore County Government and The Baltimore Post)

On July 30, 2018, The Baltimore Post filed an ethics complaint regarding the ongoing censorship of Councilman Todd Crandell’s Facebook page.

The basis of our complaint was that Councilman Crandell had blocked The Post from commenting on his political Facebook page, and had done the same to several private citizens.

In an effort to clarify our complaint, The Baltimore Post contacted the ACLU, which responded to our concerns under file number 8295 pertaining to the various laws that deal with this type of censorship.

The emphasis of our complaint was based on a recent case pertaining to social media censorship by public officials, specifically Governor Larry Hogan. Laurenson v. Hogan was filed by the ACLU of on behalf of constituents whose comments were deleted and/or blocked from the Governor’s official Facebook page.

Below is the crux of our complaint to the Baltimore County Ethics Commission:

The ACLU believes that censorship by government entities and representatives on official government social media sites is a violation of both constitutional law and the State of Marilyn’s social media policy. Where, as in the case of Maryland’s Governor Hogan, Officials embrace social media as a key means of engaging with constituents in their capacity as elected officials, they may not censor or otherwise disfavor speech simply because they disagree with it. Such discrimination is considered viewpoint-based censorship, and is not tolerated by the First Amendment in any public forum.

Councilman Crandell started to block the Post from making comments on his posts as far back as May 2016. It should also be noted that, as a general rule, the Post does not comment on political sites; however, some people may choose to link to one of our articles questioning the councilman’s actions. Also, the Post has received other complaints from citizens who also were blocked by Councilman Crandell. One citizen actually filed a similar complaint regarding the councilman’s overt censorship.

Both our complaint and the complaint from that citizen were dismissed outright by the BCOE.

Here’s where the story gets interesting, folks.

The BCOE met on August 7, 2018, to address our complaint. It took almost a month for them to notify us that our complaint was dismissed.

Below is a copy of the reply concerning our complaint against Councilman Crandell. Now you will notice that the ethics board only addresses those issues that deal with Baltimore County’s code of ethical conduct. The commission never discusses how either state or federal law comes into play in sweeping aside our complaint.

To view the entire document, please click the image below

 

Interestingly, well before we received this brush off, we called the ethics commission and vehemently protested the lack of accountability of our politicians. We were told that the committee just so happened to be meeting that night. We were told to put our concerns in an email and the committee would discuss the additional information and evidence we presented.

The commission wanted to know if they could notify the councilman of the complainant’s name. Our response was an unequivocal yes! We also asked how the ethics commission could investigate any complaint without further interviewing the complainant or Councilman Crandell. That question was never answered.

The Baltimore Post strongly believes the ethics commission failed in its due diligence to perform its duties. The state of Maryland should be the controlling jurisdiction over any matters concerning local government. All subordinate jurisdictions must meet the minimum standards as required by state law. This does not preclude Baltimore County from enforcing a stricter code of ethical conduct, and it does not allow the county to supersede the minimum standards set by the state, or by the federal government.

Now here’s an interesting quote from the Baltimore Sun concerning standards of ethical conduct for the two jurisdictions:

Council Chairman John A. Olszewski Sr. said amendments should be considered in the context of a new Maryland law requiring local governments to have ethics standards at least as strict as the state’s. “The administration had gone a little farther than the state level, and we thought we should be on the same playing field as other county officials,” he said. That is to say, Baltimore County voters should expect their council members to hold themselves to the lowest possible ethical standard and nothing more.

Maybe we missed the part where Baltimore County seceded from the United States of America and formed its own Constitution.

Having read the ludicrous response from the Ethics Commission above, we think it is important to understand the definition of ethics:

Ethics is based on well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues.

Once again, Baltimore County has demonstrated a complete lack of accountability, which has led us to believe that there is only one thing that should be done in the upcoming elections. The picture below says it all, folks.

(Photo credit/The Baltimore Post)

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