June 8, 2016 8:42 pm ET
Documents reveal possible wide spread use of private email for county business
It all started with Watergate, and more recently we had Hillary’s “EmailGate.”
And now, it appears that we have “CrandellGate”
I don’t know why so many scandals in this country adopt the “gate” term, but I guess it is fitting, as those gates refer to the barrier that exists between our elected officials and the right of the voters and taxpayers to play an active role with those who have been trusted to abide by their sacred oath of office.
In my last column/blog, I alluded to this issue. Rather than be repetitive, here is the link.
In that piece, I raised some interesting questions. Let’s take a closer look at some of those questions, specifically focusing on what I believe may precipitate a serious investigation by authorities.
Before I delve into those directly involved, we first need to look at the law and protocol, both at the county and state level.
Let’s start with the state law under Title 14, State Archives, Article §§9-1007–9-1012, and 10-632, (Scroll down to read the law) Annotated Code of Maryland.
This law covers the use of emails and record keeping. Keep in mind this is the same issue that we all know as Hillary’sEmailGate, in which the FBI has assigned 150 agents to look at both the email scandal and the Clinton Foundation.
But let’s stay local for this one…
In addition to the state law, Baltimore County has a similar code on the use of email as it pertains to record retention. We’ll get to that a bit later.
This all began when I learned that Councilman Crandell planned to ram through bill 86-15, which involved TradePointAtlantic (TPA) at the Sparrows Point Property.
Since that is a story in itself, here is the link so you may familiar yourself with the ugly details:
That blog gives a strong backdrop to the impetus of Mr. Crandell’s actions.
Then, let’s look at the response I received from the county regarding my PIA. In the past, Mr. Crandell would always let the Council Attorney Tom Peddicord respond. The following link shows a very disconcerting response from Mr. Peddicord:
I took that to mean that either Mr. Peddicord or Mr. Crandell denied that there was any contact between anyone involved with The Sparrows Point Partnership (later to be named TPA)—a line that I did not swallow.
These mega deals involve a ton a people who have their “two cents” in the game.
That’s why I found the quote of Mr. Peddicord a little bit of a stretch when he wrote the following in his reply concerning my PIA:
“There are no records that are responsive to this request.”
I pressed the issue, which is when this next piece of evidence came into play.
Scroll down to page two and you will see a message to Todd (Councilman Crandell) and the reference to the following quote: “You should scrutinize this list and we can go over the list and discus it further if you’d like.”
The recipients of this email were Mr. Crandell, Mr. Peddicord, and Doug Anderson under the subject of Draft Legislation for “Certain Large Tracts.”
Now you can begin to see the big picture—this project was quite large in scope and featured some major players.
To add to that, I was informed by reliable sources that Mr. Anderson, Councilman Crandell’s aide, made a statement that Mr. Crandell and TPA had been going back and forth for quite some time over this issue.
You see, folks, something as complicated as a major bill for TPA would involve numerous professionals, including attorneys like Venable.
This begs another important question. Take a look at this link and the document contained within. Look closely at who wrote the email: it was Christopher Mudd, an attorney for Venable.
Now look at the recipient who was Councilman Todd Crandell. Now here is where it gets dicey.
Even more importantly, look at the email address for Mr. Crandell. That is a private account and not his council email, the one that all county business must be transmitted through.
Here is a portion of the county law that accounts for such a transgression.
Retention of Emails and Electronic Documents Policy
To establish a process for the retention of County emails, email attachments, or electronic documents that contain information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and County employees.
To establish a Policy to ensure that email, email attachments, or electronic documents concerning the affairs of government are properly retained.
All email messages, email attachments and other electronic documents that contain information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees must be printed and retained in accordance with a department or office’s document retention schedule. In determining whether to print an electronic document, users should exercise the same judgment as they would use to determine whether to retain and file a paper record. It is not the intention of this policy to require printing of every email, email attachment, or electronic document, only those related to the affairs of government and official acts as defined in the County’s record retention schedules.
Once a user has determined that an email, email attachment, or electronic document concerns the affairs of government, the printed version of the document should be associated with a file or other materials related to the subject of the email message or electronic document. Once a user has printed a document in accordance with this policy, the user may delete the email, email attachment, or electronic document.
It is the user’s responsibility to print an email, email attachment, or electronic document before it is electronically deleted. If a user does not print an email, email attachment, or electronic document or appropriately store these documents in the email system, they will be automatically deleted from the County’s email system after 18 months. It is the responsibility of the department or office, not the Office of Information Technology, to ensure that email, email attachments, or electronic documents concerning the affairs of government are properly retained in accordance with this policy.
3) Then there are record retention schedules for the various
Think back to a previous moment in this blog, when Mr. Peddicord’s replied with, “There are no records that are responsive to this request.” Of course, this was pertaining to my PIA, and it makes perfect sense that no records exist when the county email system is not used.
Also, I realized that attachments were missing concerning my PIA, which is why I followed up on the matter. Now remember, I had requested all correspondence between those involved and received only one email. Did they expect me to believe there was only one email involving the Councilman?
Now I have an idea why they were omitted.
There is another question regarding why a seasoned Venable attorney like Mr. Mudd would be conversing back and forth to Councilman Crandell using a non-government email account. Isn’t that what caused the FBI to investigate the Democratic nominee for President, Hillary Clinton?
Were Mr. Mudd’s actions purposeful, or just a lapse in judgement? Who else in this “circle of politicians” was involved?
These are questions I can’t answer because I don’t have the power of a subpoena to look at private emails, which is exactly why the laws of record retention are on the books.
How far and how high will this matter go? I have already identified another pol who used his Gmail account to conduct government business, which again is a serious breach of ethics.
This is well beyond my reach, but certainly not beyond the reach of the Maryland State Attorney General, who I believe needs to be informed about all of these shenanigans.
Stay tuned, folks, and don’t leave your chair for popcorn, because you might miss something big.