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Attorney General to Carroll County: Email Addresses Can't Be Unilaterally Redacted

Carroll County Commissioner Doug Howard said he still believes it is best to withhold email addresses when it comes to public information act requests.

The State's Attorney General's Office returned its opinion to the Board of Carroll County Commissioners concluding that email addresses should not be unilaterally redacted from Public Information Act (PIA) requests.

In a December 2011 board of Carroll County commissioners meeting, the board unanimously voted to redact email addresses from PIA requests, citing security concerns.

During the 2011 meeting, Commissioner Richard Rothschild said the deputy legal counsel for Gov. Martin O'Malley did not believe that releasing email addresses was in the public interest because it would have "a chilling effect on communications."

Rothschild added that emails are often tied to individual security information and should be kept private. As a result, Rothschild said Carroll County government should mirror the policy already being implemented by Gov. O'Malley in redacting email addresses.

Commissioner Doug Howard said the board would also seek the advice of the attorney general.

The attorney general recently returned its 16-page opinion, advising that there are some scenarios where it is appropriate for email addresses to be redacted, including those dealing with senior citizens and students, but that the PIA does not permit the unilateral withholding of email addresses.

Commissioner Doug Howard said that he was "both amazed by how long it took to get the opinion and how convoluted it is."

Howard said he felt like the board asked a "yes" or "no" question and failed to get a simple response.

"It seems to me like the attorney general went to great lengths to say that the addresses probably should be included, but then gave reasons why it might not be appropriate, thus giving cover to the position taken by the governor," Howard said.

The board of commissioners may revisit the issue after the county attorney has had time to review the opinion, Howard said.

"We took the same position that Governor O'Malley has taken," Howard said. "I strongly believe the position we have taken is the correct one."

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  • Blogger: Slamming the Door Shut on Open Governance

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Hugh Manatee January 07, 2013 at 07:24 AM
"decision making abilities, past experience, education, training, writing abilities, and competence" except in the case of Weetman (Economic Development) where none of the commissioners knew he'd recently filed for bankruptcy.
Native January 07, 2013 at 11:50 AM
Getting back to the issue at hand here......the problem is not what the actual correspondences are, just the personal contact info contained in them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking that out as long as the rest is left in. As an example, look at the foolishness up north with the media publicizing the personal information of gun owners.
Buck Harmon January 07, 2013 at 01:42 PM
It's the media Native...not elected public official servants...The Commissioners are responsible to abide by the law, not create a grey area to dable in that suits their own agenda.They need to either challenge the law in court or abide by it. Anything shy leaves the County vulnerable to a law suit. The"foolishness up North" example falls short as well..
Native January 07, 2013 at 03:23 PM
Where do you think the media got the info? The only difference here is that the board members are acting in the best interests of the public, whom they serve. Frankly, I don't understand why you & the others have a problem with this issue. Could it have anything to do with the personal issues you have with them, & you are just creating a mountain out of a molehill?
Buck Harmon January 07, 2013 at 03:35 PM
The media is not held to any degree of accountability by taxpayers Native, The Commissioners are when behaving badly. You can suck up in the grey zone if you choose to...I say abide by the law or change it...pretty simple.. The media has a track record of getting things wrong and lying to achieve a specific agenda with no shame.
Buck Harmon January 07, 2013 at 03:37 PM
The issue at hand is that the Commissioner's appear to be breaking the law again...
Gr8Minds January 07, 2013 at 03:39 PM
Well, I know I will now think twice before emailing my thoughts to a Commissioner. If I have a concern or recommendation, then I want to be able to share it with a Commissioner without the whole world being able to analyze me and my opinion. There are too many people that hold a difference in opinion against you.
Buck Harmon January 07, 2013 at 10:19 PM
Still waiting for some UNWAVERING answers from Commissioner R Rothschild... come on Richard...straight forward...
Bonnie Grady January 08, 2013 at 03:23 AM
Shame on you, Richard Rothschild! You know that is an outright lie. The person who made the request for those emails - under a valid and legal Public Information Act request - never published them or used them for any purpose! How could he have?....by your own admission to the Attorney General, you blacked them all out! You really do need a reality check, sir!
Bonnie Grady January 08, 2013 at 03:28 AM
I went to YouTube and did a search for that video by that title. Sure enough, it's our County Attorney admitting in his own words that he's knowingly breaking the law. I guess he has to in order to keep his job! Working for the "Feeble 59th" must be pure hell.
Bonnie Grady January 08, 2013 at 03:57 AM
Baloney. It's been known and attested to by County employees that the Commissioners - particularly Frazier - routinely check the voting records regarding a candidate's party affiliation. Given your rapid regard for all things Republican-Tea Party, I'm not buying for one second that you do the same.
Bonnie Grady January 08, 2013 at 03:59 AM
Want to see more about this? Go to the website Eye On Carroll. It ends in dot com.
Buck Harmon January 08, 2013 at 05:01 AM
You are WAVERING here Richard ~~
Commissioner R Rothschild January 09, 2013 at 12:24 AM
Buck- I have the evidence that the email addresses were in fact scanned and put online. Come to my office and I'll be glad to show it to you, and we can have a cup of coffee. Usually, I don't waste my time responding to untrue partisan misrepresentations, but this one is a piece of cake. You can schedule a meeting with me by phoning 410-386-2400. Thanks! -Rich
Bonnie Grady January 09, 2013 at 02:33 AM
Bummer, I didn't get invited to the Coffee Klatch! Or is that a TEA PARTY? Oh...that's why I didn't get invited!
romeo valianti January 09, 2013 at 03:03 AM
Unafillated, is there any reason why You wont publish you real name when you make some remarks . Also it does show how low of a person you are when you offer a line in your answer that you do not respect my journalistic abilities. Well sir at least I am not ashamed to post my real name . You must be hiding from something in your life. With me, at 88 years young, world war 2 and Korean veteran,, 60 yea working in local , county and state government I am proud of ny record. If I were you I would look in the mirror and stop hiding. Publish your name like the rest of when writing to Patch.
Buck Harmon January 09, 2013 at 03:47 AM
Richard, I think that if you review my comments on this thread you will find that I never questioned or care about the emails that you speak of. I spoke to the fact that you and the other Commissioners broke the law. You seem to have known that you were breaking the law and did so intentionally.The questions that I seek answers to are as follow... 1.If the County Commissioners willingly break the law should they be held accountable? 2. Is law a joke or an illusion that does not need to be recognized? It would seem that the evidence of Carroll County Commissioners willfully breaking the law is obvious to all. I am of no political affiliation and make no partisan misrepresentations...I seek the truth...sound Constitutional leadership should never have reason to dance around it.If you would care to discuss this and several other issues that I have addressed with regard to the integrity of some of the decisions made by you and the other commissioners I'd be happy to schedule a time at your earliest convenience.I'll buy the coffee, and I would like to invite Bonnie Grady as well.....hell lets just schedule a public meeting to address this issue completely. I'll call your office tomorrow to arrange details, and will post the result here tomorrow. Thanks for the invite !
Ed January 09, 2013 at 05:16 AM
Romeo, some of us don't use our full names because we have jobs and we'd prefer to keep them. But we still want to make our opinions heard. I disagree with the Gang of 5 probably 90 percent of the time, but if I were to send them an e-mail criticizing them, I'd not want that available to the public. Same with a letter, for that matter. Hence, I have to limit my criticism to blogs and comment sessions. So basically, I'm being muzzled by this over-reaching AG's opinion on public information.
Judith M. Smith January 15, 2013 at 02:06 PM
I'll take you up on that invite...I was there for the initial presentation at the Dec.ll meeting...there has never been a posting in a public place of peoples' email names and addresses. The AG has presented a legal process--a process--to deny publication of such information. That should be the definitive ruling. This conversation from Mr.Rothschild is smoke and mirrors about a Public Information request concerning the use of office and staff in what should have been a personal matter not taxpayer funded time. Another problem with some of these issues is that the BOC can get their legal fees paid by the county (US!!!) where a resident who is paying them...has to foot the legal bill to challenge in court because our BOC doesn't agree with the State, County, or Federal government and its laws. This made-up excuse to avoid any public scrutiny if a situation comes up where the public has an interest in checking out...is like the lame comment concerning the English Only Ordnance because "some one...somewhere caused legal fees for translation into an obscure foreign language." Very easy to make statements that are beyond common sense...and much different to have the proof for having made that statement. Mr.Rothschild..you promised me that name, and I'm still waiting...
Buck Harmon January 15, 2013 at 02:39 PM
I'm still waiting for a return call to confirm a meeting time... A comment that I made on January 5, 2013 is still "Pending Approval" for some odd reason as well..
Buck Harmon January 15, 2013 at 02:45 PM
I have a job Ed, don't understand this logic. Are you saying that if your employer knew who you really were that they might fire you, or somehow treat you differently? If that's the case, you have never experienced living freely and I would recommend that you give it a try...you muzzle yourself... that's a shame..
Bonnie Grady January 16, 2013 at 01:35 AM
Thanks Buck, but I'll pass. I prefer not to be in the same room as Herr Rothschild.
Buck Harmon January 16, 2013 at 02:27 PM
For some reason Herr Rothschild is not returning my call,(that he suggested I make) anyway Bonnie... go figure..
Commissioner R Rothschild January 19, 2013 at 10:32 PM
Buck- Please email your phone # to me at rrothschild@ccg.carr.org and I'll call you directly to schedule time together. Feel free to bring anyone you want with you, including Judy. I enjoy meeting with constituents and having an energetic (but respectful) discussion. THANKS! Commissioner Richard Rothschild
Commissioner R Rothschild January 19, 2013 at 10:41 PM
Judy... The information I received was from an attorney in our District who approached me gratuitously. However, I believe he prefers to remain anonymous. I have to respect his wishes, just as I would respect yours if a similar situation were to arise. It matters not. I would vote to make English our official language in the absence of this data point. Over 50 countries in the world already have designated English as their official language. It is also the official language of worldwide aviation. And to be perfectly direct, I believe it is the right thing to do for our County; our State; and our Country. I just can't go with you on this issue. Sorry... -Rich
Ed January 20, 2013 at 04:26 AM
Buck, not all jobs require the same level of discretion. Mine requires more and I will leave it at that. I just don't see why I, as a private citizen, have to have my contact information become public if I want to send mail or an e-mail to an elected official.But since that is the case, then yes, I will have to muzzle myself. I have to weigh my freedom of speech with the desire to support a family. If it was just me, I might not care as much.
Buck Harmon January 20, 2013 at 05:05 AM
I'll stop by the Office Bldg. to arrange a meeting in person this week...you should have my number as well, I called your office and have been waiting for a return call...might your staff have misplaced it..? Thanks for the followup !
Buck Harmon January 20, 2013 at 05:11 AM
In the meantime Richard...Is there a reason that you are not able to answer the two specific questions that I have posed on this Patch thread..?..it's what these type of blog are about... they are very basic, simple questions...the easiest to answer..
Buck Harmon January 20, 2013 at 04:35 PM
I can't relate to a job that requires the wearing of a muzzle Ed...that's far from living freely...what ever floats your boat though... I respect your concern for family though..
Buck Harmon January 20, 2013 at 04:37 PM
Two questions for Commissioner Richard Rothschild.. 1.If the County Commissioners willingly break the law should they be held accountable? 2. Is law a joke or an illusion that does not need to be recognized?

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