July 14, 2015 10:50 am ET
Can Councilman Crandell really substantiate his statements about illegal dumping stats?
Source: Fact or Fiction?
Councilman Crandell, tell the truth!
Let me do my best “carny” impersonation here, folks…
“Step right up! Step right up! Get yourself a bottle of ‘Crandell’s new miracle cure’ … all for the low, low price of only a thousand bucks!”
How did I do?
Eh, never mind, sonny. Go away … you bother me.
While I am being a little facetious about the carny pitch, it is rather fitting in this instance since the public will swallow just about anything these days.
Let’s start off with the little ditty that set this blog post in motion.
News Flash – Dateline, June 25, 2015; Councilman’s Corner by Todd Crandell, as published in the Dundalk Eagle. Subject: “Looking back on the first six months.”
Are you dripping with excitement?
I thought so…
Anyway, let’s look at one of the quotes that jumped right out at me. It is a statement that, figuratively speaking, set off some fireworks between Mr. Crandell, little ol’ me, and the County. It pertains to Mr. Crandell’s sweeping legislation known as the dumping bill, as well as his statement of “Citizen Vigilance and involvement has helped police enforce the new law, and ”violators have already been cited.”
As someone who always seeks the truth (a “miner” of truth, you could say), I began to wonder if there was any truth in them thar [sic] golden words, or if the statement was just some more fool’s gold.
After some digging, here is what the County sent me:
Councilman Crandell asked me to respond to your request of July 5 regarding Bill 20-15.
Bill 20-15 is a criminal statute enforceable by the Police Department. The Department may have the type of records you seek. Neither the Councilman nor the County Council has any of the records you seek, and neither is the custodian of such records.
I suggest you direct your request to the Police Department.
Shortly thereafter, I panned the stream some more and received this wonderful nugget:
The Legal Section of the Baltimore County Police Department has received your request for “the total number of violations regarding Baltimore County Code (Depositing Materials in Streets- Penalties) under 20-15 of the Baltimore County Code from the effective date of April 20, 2015 to July 1, 2015, under the Maryland Public Information Act (hereinafter “MPIA”).
The Baltimore County Code does not have a section 20-15, so I am assuming that you are inquiring about County Council bill #20-15 from the current session. This bill modified the statute and added penalties to Baltimore County Code 18-3-109.
The Police Department does not currently track the number of violations under Baltimore County Code 18-3-109, therefore would require a search of calls for service to be conducted by a Departmental statistical analyst. The MPIA does allow the Records Custodian to charge a fee for the search and compilation of records in response to a request, lasting beyond 2 hours. If the request goes beyond the 2-hour exception, there would be a charge in order to obtain the records. The Police Department is not authorized to waive this fee. The fee would be $25.00 per hour for each hour beyond the first two hours for the search and compilation of violations, if there are any such violations.
Our Crime Analysis Team has determine that it will require eight (8) hours to fulfill your request. Therefore, the Police Department must charge for six (6) hours at a rate of $25.00 per hour, totaling a fee of $150.00. This fee can be paid by mailing a check made payable to Baltimore County, Maryland, sent to the Baltimore County Police Department, Attn: Legal Section, 700 East Joppa Road, Towson, Maryland 21286. Please feel free to contact the Legal Section at (410) 887-2211 with any questions or concerns.
Please Note: This is not a denial letter under the MPIA
Within that long missive is the part that I loved to read: “The Police Department does not currently track the number of violations under Baltimore County Code 18-3-109…”
As Popeye the Sailor would say, “Well blow me down.” You are going to charge me $150 for something you don’t track???
And, if that is truly the case, then where the heck did the Councilman get his data from? Bluto?
Folks, as the saying goes, “You ain’t heard nothing yet.” The hits just kept on coming, as along came this e-mail from Code Enforcement:
As to the request for documents, your request, more specifically delineated in your attachment, will require an estimated 10 hours to review the appropriate files. The PIA authorizes the custodian of records to “charge an applicant a reasonable fee for the search for, preparation of, and reproduction of a public record.” Section 10-621(h) of the State Government Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland (SG). The custodian may not charge for the first 2 hours of work. SC section 10-621 (c). The Attorney General of the State of Maryland has stated in his PIA manual that the custodian may demand prepayment of search and preparation fees as provided in regulations. The County has adopted such regulations…
Pursuant to its regulations, the County charges $25/hour for search and preparation fees that must be prepaid before search and preparation of the records can continue. Please send to me a check in the amount of $200 (8 hours x $25), made payable to Baltimore County, Maryland. If the review should require more than the estimated time, you will be so notified to make payment to the County for the difference. If the review requires less than the estimated hours, you will be so notified and you will be reimbursed the difference. Upon receipt, I will instruct staff to begin locating and preparing the records. After that, staff can set up a time for you to come to our offices to review the records. At that point, you can decide the records you would to have copied. The County charges $0.50/page for copying standard paper sizes and charges at cost for larger sized documents (large maps, etc). These fees will also have to be paid before the copies are produced.
Copies of use and occupancy permits are $50.00 each.
Insofar as your request is for confirmation of code violations or verification of zoning, this is not a request within the parameters of the Maryland Public Information Act. It is a request for confirmation of certain information. Be advised that there is a fee for such a letter of confirmation–an expedited response, within 10 days from the date of request, is $500.00; otherwise the fee is $150.00. A check, made payable to Baltimore County, may be mailed to the Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections, County Office Bldg, 111 West Chesapeake Ave., Towson, Maryland 21204.
Upon receipt of your payments, we will respond to your request.
Connect with Baltimore County.
Notice the charge from this agency is now $200, on top of the $150 from the police department.
Will someone please tell me why I have to pay $350 for data they admittedly don’t track which the Council Secretary claims not to have but that the Councilman is quoting???
It’s enough to make your head spin, isn’t it?
I guess they want me to swallow more swill regarding this complete cluster of a mess. Seems like a more expensive version of stonewalling to me.
I thought about taking up a collection to cover the exorbitant costs, but then I stopped short. Simply put, folks, I don’t pay for lies; I just dig for the truth.
I’ll keep digging. You keep reading…