State Sued over Failure to Comply with PIA Request
Posted by Buzz Beeler on 21st January 2017
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July 6, 2015 5:34 pm ET

Suit involves constable reports over illegal eviction at Sea Horse Inn

Source: State Sued over Failure to Comply with PIA Request

Here’s a little game of “catch up” for those who haven’t been following the ongoing saga.

I have written previous blogs about the illegal eviction that turned into a 4th Degree Burglary and Destruction of Property case at the Sea Horse Inn in Dundalk. Charged in the matter were Mr. John Vontran, a local developer; Sergeant Mike Weiss, a deputy sheriff with Baltimore County; and Alexandra Hartsock from the Sea Horse Inn. The charges were misdemeanors that included a 4th Degree Burglary and Destruction of Property. The Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office referred the case to the City State’s Attorney’s office to avoid any conflict of interest.

Fast forward to the present. All of the cases have been adjudicated, with verdicts ranging from a plea deal involving Mr. Vontran (who will received PBJ after paying restitution) and Sergeant Weiss, whose case was placed on the Stet docket once he agreed to pay $2,000 in restitution to the victim.

So, how did this lead to the filing of a PIA to the State of Maryland, which oversees the constables? Let me explain…

After I broke the initial story, I started to receive phone calls telling me that I had to get copies of the constable’s reports, because those reports contained much more detail than the police report that I obtained.

My goal was to get to the bottom of the Sheriff’s involvement in the case, since his office handles foreclosures, not evictions. Constables, it seems, handle all the evictions.

Are you starting to connect the dots, folks?

Also, I was told that it was not uncommon for the Sheriff’s office to handle an eviction; however, that statement does not mesh well with the facts. If the source was accurate, this situation could lead to a real legal problem for Sheriff Jay Fisher.

Since facts always speak louder than words—which were what I was looking for, so to speak—I filled the following PIA with the State of Maryland:

Buzz Beeler
buzz@buzzbeeler.com

Administrative Clerk – S. Michael Esposito
Baltimore County Courts
Baltimore County, MD 21286

02/01/15

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.

Sincerely,

Buzz Beeler

An interesting side note to this PIA is that I called at least 20 attorneys in Baltimore County and was turned down by every one of them. One attorney told me that no one would take this case in the county because, “…we don’t bite the hand that feeds us.”

Before filing the PIA, I contacted the proper authorities and was advised to whom the PIA should be directed.

In fact, when I did not hear anything regarding the PIA, I called again and was “unofficially” told that my request was denied by a judge.

I told the official that such a denial was strange because I had not heard anything regarding the matter. To make certain, I thoroughly checked my computer files and e-mails, searching for any response.

Needless to say, there wasn’t any response to be found. At least I knew that the PIA was directed to the right person, based on what the source told me.

After hearing that comment from the one attorney, I decided the best thing to do was go outside the jurisdiction of Baltimore County. Fortunately, I was able to find the law firm of Michael P. Coyle—The Coyle Law Group, in Columbia, MD. Mr. Coyle had some choice words to say about the situation, but I digress on that for the moment.

Under the State PIA law, if your request is going to be denied, then the State must notify you within 10 days as to the reason for the denial. The State has 30 days in which to reply to the PIA before one can take legal action, which I am doing since that time period has long passed.

Government transparency, or the lack thereof, has always been an issue in my opinion. Despite what the powers that be think, the people have a right to know how their government is being run.

For those of you that read this blog, over the years you will see how many stone walls I have encountered … and knocked down.

The responsibility of the public is to fight back against the secrecy and stonewalling until one day those elected officials and state employees realize they do have a job and a responsibility to do it.

Cue the theme from Rocky, because the gloves are on and the bell is about to ring. The suit is filed, and that means the fight is on, as they say.

I’m ready to go the distance…

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