The headline of this column is a direct quote from Gary Bernstein, a prominent Towson attorney, regarding a story the Post broke on the now defunct Towson Row Project regarding the mess left behind by Caves Valley, LLC Whiting-Turner in the heart of Towson.
Mr. Bernstein was referring to several problems; specifically, pedestrian safety and parking around the area of the failed project, which blocks off sidewalks and parking areas with fencing and concrete barriers.
Mr. Bernstein also spoke of the Sun article, which the Post believes was misleading based on the following quotes:
“Officials with developer Caves Valley Partners say they must reconfigure the project after discovery of a geological issue — solid rock under the surface — that makes it cost-prohibitive to build an underground parking garage for the $350 million project.
Adler said the company is redesigning the project to accommodate parking elsewhere, but new plans will need to be approved by county officials.”
In an effort to qualify that information, the Post filed a PIA with the county and received the following response:
There are not any emails responsive to this request as amended by your emails of December 15 and 21. I want to explain to you how we searched so you can understand that there was a sincere attempt to locate them.
I initially made the search request in the attached document for OIT. The tricky thing for these requests is to shape them broadly enough so that you capture everything but not so broadly that you end up with too many emails to review. I’ve had the experience of an initial search coming up 40,000 emails. I figured using “Towson Row” would get me everything that includes “Towson” or “row” in any part of the email. I was right and I ended up with 2,572 emails (I may have written 3,000 earlier, which was what the OIT guy said to me but this late in the game I realized how to get an exact number without counting emails). After your emails of December 15 and 21, I did searches within the results for emails from:
- Four named people in Caves Valley Partners, including Arthur Adler and Steve Sibel
- The County Executive
- Councilmember David Marks
- Four named people from Whiting-Turner
I got the additional names for Caves and all the names from WT by initially searching “caves” and “whiting,” so I really did this search twice. I also searched Marks and Kamenetz twice.
Once, the emails from each of these ten people popped up (not all sent emails; some people from Caves and WT were only recipients one or two emails at most), I looked at each email to see who received the email.
There were zero emails between these people. In fact, there weren’t even any emails in which any two were recipients. For example, I didn’t find an email that might have gone from someone at DPW and say, someone from Caves and someone from WT.
As I may have explained earlier, for these email requests we do not explicitly search for emails from members of the county council. Emails from David Marks only would have turned up to the extent that they may have been addressed to staff of an agency. While I am indeed their counsel, there has to be some respect for the separation of powers. Anyone who wants Council emails needs to go through the Council.
I hope you had a great Christmas and that you have a happy new year.”
In reply to the county, my IT person wrote down a list of search parameters that would have clarified this whole situation. The search parameters given would have allowed the county to locate the emails concerning the proposed development.
Sadly, I heard nothing more from the county on that PIA.
The Post could press the issue through the MD State Ombudsman; however, sometimes actions speak louder than words.
Back to Mr. Bernstein, the fiery attorney that fights for every case. His major concern was pedestrian safety, and he stated, “Those barriers are forcing pedestrians into the street, and someone is going to get hurt.”
Mr. Bernstein also wanted Mr. Kamenetz to restore parking to the surrounding business owners who are potentially inconveniencing customers. When I first went out to Towson, Mr. Bernstein’s office was basically shut off by the barriers left behind.
Regarding the title of the column, Mr. Bernstein suggested the wording himself, stating, “We’ll see if Mr. Kamenetz gets back to me on this.”