Commissioner Notes: Redactions, Spanish Signs, 911 Stations

Citizens questioned commissioner policies in Tuesday's open meeting and the commissioners approved the purchase of 911 workstations.

Highlights from Tuesday's open meeting of the Carroll County Board of Commissioners:

PIA Redaction Policy

Resident Judy Smith told commissioners she was concerned about their decision to redact certain information from Public Information Act (PIA) requests.

"I think the public is entitled to know what is happening between commissioners, staff and citizens," Smith said.

In the Dec. 13 commissioners meeting, the board unanimously voted to redact email addresses from PIA requests, citing security concerns.

During the Dec. 13 discussion by commissioners and County Attorney Tim Burke, Burke said that personal information such as phone numbers and addresses, and he expected email addresses, were protected under the PIA. However, Burke added that he currently redacts some information from PIA requests.

"I take out addresses and phone numbers. I haven't been challenged on that yet," Burke said in a video of the meeting.

In Tuesday's open session, Frazier told Smith that perhaps she misunderstood the extent of the new policy.

"The only thing we are redacting is the email address," Frazier said. "We think everybody should know the content and person of the conversations but the email address might be sensitive information."

Commissioner Richard Rothschild added that there are security issues involved with sharing citizen's personal email addresses. He likened an email address to a key to personal information.

"People's email addresses are the equivalent to keys to a safe deposit box," Rothschild said. "An email address is like one of the keys to electronic accounts like credit information, insurance information, health information. Giving out email addresses could potentially expose citizens to tampering with their identity."

He added that a citizen had tried to access email addresses from the state of Maryland under the PIA and was advised by deputy legal counsel for Gov. Martin O'Malley that the state did not belive that releasing email addresses was in the public interest because it would have "a chilling effect on communications."

"We agree with the decision of that deputy legal counsel so we mirrored the policy already being implemented by Gov. O'Malley by redacting these email addresses," Rothschild said.

Board of Commissioners President Doug Howard noted that the board also agreed to seek the opinion of the attorney general on its policy to redact email addresses from PIA requests. He said the board is in the process of seeking that opinion. 


Spanish FEMA Signs Removed

During the public comment period, resident Bonnie Grady accused Rothschild of showing prejudice by working with his campaign manager in the spring to have two billboards removed because they were written in Spanish.

Rothschild said he believes it is inappropriate for the government to put up billboards written in Spanish when Spanish isn't the language spoken by many of the citizens.

"As an elected official representing my citizens in District 4, I thought that it was inappropriate for the government to be putting up billboards written entirely in Spanish," Rothschild said. "I asked Mr. Holstein to look into it to see what was behind that and get those billboards changed. And he did."

The signs were public service announcements posted by FEMA. Grady said that it was irresponsible to remove messages informing people how to prepare for emergency situations such as hurricanes.

"Acting on direct orders from you it was removed because you did not want it in Spanish," Grady said. "Everyone along the way knew it was because you resented it being in Spanish."

Commissioner Howard added that the decision was made due to demographics. According to the Census, 2.6 percent of Carroll County's population in 2010 was of Latin or Hispanic origin.

Rothschild reaffirmed his position.

"When we have something very important being published by FEMA, I maintain my position that it is totally inappropriate to have two billboards in our distrcit written 100 percent in Spanish," Rothschild said. "Had they been bilingual it wouldn't have been an issue but it is a grave injustice to our citizens to put these billboards up in a language which they don't understand and can't interpret."


Also of note in Tuesday's meeting:

The commissioners approved the purchase of 10 911 workstations for the new Carroll County Emergency Communications Center. The county received a total of 10 bids of which Eaton/Wright Line was the lowest in the amount of $105,778.10. The workstations will be paid for by a grant from the Maryland State Emergency Number Systems Board (ENSB), which will cover 100 percent of the purchase, delivery and installation of the furnishings. No county money is required.

Visit the Carroll County's video library to see watch videos of commissioner open meetings.

Buck Harmon January 12, 2012 at 03:29 PM
If they were employees they'd be fired, if they were public servants this never would have happened, what exactly is going on here...?
John T. Welch January 12, 2012 at 07:15 PM
JC, You have got it right. Tom
Judith M. Smith January 15, 2012 at 12:11 AM
he ain't gonna...
Judith M. Smith January 15, 2012 at 12:45 AM
I was directed by Comm. Howard to review the meeting...you are correct...
Jane January 15, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Bon-Bon, you either missed my point entirely or you have no way of refuting. So I repeat: "Maybe the Commissioners are taking a page out of Obummer's book....meeting behind closed doors, executive orders and appointments when Congress is in recess and the like." And to you, it's Jane.
Bonnie Grady February 13, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Jane February 15, 2012 at 06:51 AM
You libs are real pieces of work
Buck Harmon February 15, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Thanks, The admittedly illegal portion of this piece says it all....
Bonnie Grady February 16, 2012 at 04:20 AM
"Hamburg".....German, perhaps? Immigrant, perhaps?
Jane February 18, 2012 at 04:38 AM
75% German by ancestry (arrived in NY in 1800's..legally)..100% German by injection (also narrived in NY in 1800's..legally), LMAO! And you....Irish mayhap? Or just by injection? :D
Ed February 18, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Well, now that this discussion has clearly degenerated into ethnic barbs and other unfortunate comments, can I post some thoughts that are based on practical common sense instead of liberal or conservative polemic views? 1. It is a waste of valuable advertising real estate to post Spanish language content in an area where such a small percentage of the population speaks the language. I could think of about 10 communities in Maryland where the Listo borads would have been more worthwhile. 2. Where does Rothschild get off getting involved with private-sector billboard company running a public service add that was developed by the advertising industry on a pro bono basis? (And by the way, multi-lingual ads developed by the Ad Council for FEMA go back way before the Obama administration.) ....more....
Ed February 18, 2012 at 08:16 PM
....more.... 3. Those who are saying that Rothschild "ordered staff to have the billboards removed" are out of touch with reality. And if Rhothschild thinks he has that much power, then he is also dilusional. He may have ordered his staff to inquire about them, but he has no more power to order billboard messages be changed than he does to order Wal-Mart to get rid of its McDonalds because he doesn't like unhealth fast food. What is sad is that someone who fancies himself as a businessman had no clue about how the Ad Coucil operates and actually thought that the Maryland Emergency Management Agency had anything to do with the messaging or the placement of the billboards. What's most annoying about all of this is that while the posters here have spent lots of time making this about the politics of immigration or our county commissioners, the message of preparedness has been lost. I'm curious if any of the posters on here have a family disaster plan, disaster supply kits for the home and car and would know how to communicate with their family if, say, a tornado hit during the day when parents were scattered between various workplaces and home and the kids were scattered at various schools, colleges, jobs, friend's houses, etc. I will say that both sides have succeded in making a mountain out of a mole hill on this issue.
Kathy February 18, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Of course they didnt need a sign to tell them the tracks were dangerous--any more than I did. The point is, it didn't harm me in any way to read it in Spanish, and there was no harm involved in leaving the damn billboard in Spanish up there, unless you are personally affronted by the fact that people are speaking Spanish in your English speaking country.
Kathy February 18, 2012 at 08:57 PM
I agree he couldn't force the removal of the billboard, but it appears that he exercised his influence to bring it down. And why? why was valuable, taxpayer-paid time used for such a non-offensive, non-harmful occurrence? What is the harm in having a Spanish billboard in Carroll County?
Buck Harmon February 18, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Disaster plan.... see to it that the power seeking BOC doesn't create a disaster in Carroll. Mole hills do turn to mountains if left unchecked.
Ed February 19, 2012 at 02:27 AM
As I understand it, and I may be wrong, those billboards stayed up until a paid ad was available to replace them. If that is not the case I stand corrected. By the way, I know one of the posters on here also called and talked to a government employee about this issue, and some might say that person also wasted valuable taxpayer-paid time. Also, of the one goverment call that I know about, it was NOT made by Rothschild's assistant, it was made by another county employee who shall remain nameless (mostly because working for the Gang of Five is traumatic enough without having someone from outside county government toss you under the bus). :-) And that call was NOT a demand to have it taken down, it was to try to find out who was responsible for putting it up. Buck,I agree about molehills left unchecked, but I think the Gang of Five has created enough real mountains that we don't need to make a major issue out of a relatively trivial matter, IMHO.
Judith M. Smith February 19, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Your comment about the "trauma" within the County Office building nails it...it was bad enough under Dell and Fraizer...and now it has been compounded. We both have to know gut level that this whole thing is about prejudice...us against "them"...this is just a very obvious episode to illustrate the undercurrent that some on the BOC harbor against "them."
Buck Harmon February 19, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Ed...You make it sound as though you work for the BOC... Which "real mountains are you reffering to here?
Bonnie Grady February 19, 2012 at 03:06 PM
I am the one who stood before the commissioners and made the billboard issue public. Here are the facts: 1. An email from Bruce Holstein to Rothschild was made public through a PIA request. It said that the Spanish sign in Taylorsville had been replaced with one in English about the Shriners. 2. I started asking questions. I ended up at the MD Emergency Management Agency where I learned the whole story about who called whom and when, what was said and what was done locally. 3. I called Ready.gov and talked to the Director there. He told me what he knew. 4. I called Clear Channel who owns the billboard. 5. I met with someone who has firsthand knowledge of the situation and was told a completely different story. I have to assume this was because Rothschild and the others realized they had been outed. 6. I confronted the BOC in an open session and they did two important things. First, they admitted that they had discussed the billboard and were in agreement with Rothschild that it should be removed. Second, they lied about what happened next. You can see and hear the entire exchange at www.eyeoncarroll.com/spanishbillboards. Here are the issues: Rothschild admits he was offended by the signs because they were written in Spanish. He did not use accurate demographics in citing his reason for wanting them removed. He admits to using his position as Commissioner, but denies telling a county dept. head to have the sign(s) removed. The county employee (see more)
Bonnie Grady February 19, 2012 at 03:20 PM
(continued) bragged about his involvement initially, and now tells a different story saying that he "spent three days working on it" but denies making a call to MEMA. He also says the sign in Taylorsville was replaced by a paid ad - not true, see Holstein's email about a message about the Shriners. (Clear Channel knows what they replaced it with.) Here are my thoughts on this: The BOC violated the Open Meetings Act by discussing this outside of an open meeting, by whatever method they may have used (email, phone, handwritten notes, whatever). They tried to keep it quiet because they knew it would reveal their collusion to act on prejudice. They abused valuable county resources on it ("three days", remember?) They violated their oath of office to serve without partiality or prejudice. They overreached their authority by interferring with a federally mandated, federally funded program. They put a specific portion of our community at risk by interfering with their ability to have valuable information about disaster preparedness. They put the entire community at risk by denying access to that smaller portion of the community which means vital services would have been used on the unprepared. They put our emergency responders - firefighters, EMS, etc. - at risk by requiring them to spend valuable time and resources inefficiently. They have not been truthful about what happened, what they did about it or who was involved. Tax money isn't wasted on getting the truth!
David A. Grand February 19, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Exito! (wow), it's more like making a mole hill out of an ant hill. And wth the underlying bias of many against latinos in general (albeit it's now the largest minority population), even showing its ugly head ion such a picayune issue as the language on billboards signs, says it all.
Bonnie Grady February 22, 2012 at 06:39 AM
Ed, the more I read through your comment, the more it appears tyou have inside information on this incident. Who actually gave the order to get the billboards changed out to another PSA, as evidenced by Holstein's email to Rothschild? It wasn't the folks at the Ready campaign; I've spoken with them. Was it Clear Channel? Was it the Ad Council? Who did MEMA call to "get it taken care of"?
Ed February 23, 2012 at 10:20 AM
...more... I will go back to my original point about having Listo signs in a county that has a relatively small Spanish speaking population. What's really odd about this is that based on what I have read (I don't go through South Carroll very often) there were two Spanish language billboards in South Carroll but none in English. Along 140 between Westminster and the county line, there have been 4-5 English billboards for the ready campaign and NONE in Spanish. If they were gonna put up a Spanish launguage billboard in Carroll, it seems to me it should have been one in Westminster. Based on the Spanish masses at St. John and the two Latino markets in Westminster, I would argue that the bulk of the Hispanic population in Carroll is in Westminster, NOT the greater Mount Airy-Taylorsville-Winfield metropolis. ..more..
Ed February 23, 2012 at 10:23 AM
Bonnie, you should know who I am. I have no idea who gave the "order." In one of your posts above you list all of the folks you talked with and gave some details of the conversation EXCEPT for YOUR conversation with Clear Channel. What did THEY say about the changeover from one unpaid ad to another? I'm curious about that myself but not really in a position to question them. I am not privy to anything Holstein, Rothschild, Clear Channel or the Ad Council did about this. Why would you think that MEMA had a dog in this fight? I earlier blasted Rothschild and his henchman for thinking that. What really irritates me if that if Rothschild really cared about this, why didn't he do the research on this himself. The gang of 5 came in to office saying they were gonna get rid of their assistants, and he turns right around and uses county employees to do basic research that he could have done on line himself. What the heck is he doing on his laptop in all of those meetings? Or is doing basic research beneath him? ...more.. .
Ed February 23, 2012 at 10:26 AM
..more.. I also think that the fact that this was discussed by the gang in closed session is a FAR more egregious violation of the open meetings act than the complaint Neil filed about the dog and pony show down at the Pikesville Hilton, also know as the Nick Mangione Center for Advanced Right Wing Studies. They may have charged a fee to some of the attendees, but they were not secretive about it (heck, they BRAGGED about it), it has been broadcast on the county governbment channel ad nauseum (on the county webgsite too, I think) and they accepted public comments on issues related to Plan Maryland several times at public meetings. This, on the other hand, was discussed quietly behind closed doors, wasted the time of taxpayer funded employees at three different levels of government, interfered with a project that uses time and talent DONATED by the private sector and only came to light when a citizen -- you -- brought it up in a public meeting. Again, I'm not really in a position to do anythying about this, but THIS is the kind of closed meeting people should bring up to the compliance board, not a meeting that for all intents and purposes was available to county residents by a variety of other methods.
Ed February 23, 2012 at 10:39 AM
Buck, nope, I don't work for county government. Professional suicide is not on my bucket list. I once THOUGHT about applying for a county job back during the Gouge/Jones/Minnick regieme, but after a couple of days of pondering, I came to my senses. The fact that the person who did take the job I considered exited before the new group came in to office confirmed that I made the right decision professionally. (And no, it was NOT Neil's job :-) ) But anyone who even casually follows the gang of 5 knows that on the list of "Mountains" they have created, this billboard issue is pretty minor. From using taxpayer funds for the the Plan Maryland love-fest, to the painfully long process of updating the master plan, to the inexcusable delays of dealing with the airport expansion (at least they made the right call there in my opinion) and the awful incinerator deal with Frederick County (WHAT is taking them so long on this one?) to their penchant for closed-door meetings after blasting the previous commissioners for doing the same thing to Frazier's flaunting of established policy in padding her salary with needless mileage expenses (I wish I could get paid mileage for using my own car to go to a meeting in the same town as my regular workplace), there are plenty of bigger fish to fry with these folks. ..more.. .
Ed February 23, 2012 at 10:40 AM
..more.. Also,though I have been critical of Neil for challenging the BOC for Open Meetings violations for the Plan Maryland event that was available to the public through various means, I give him major kudos for his reporting on Frazier's abuse of county mileage payments. Would that the PAID journalists at our daily fish wrap ever do any investigative reporting on county government affairs.
Ed February 23, 2012 at 10:42 AM
Sorry that my posts in reply to Bonnie appeared out of order. Sometimes I'm technologically challenged!
Buck Harmon February 23, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Thanks Ed...
Bonnie Grady February 24, 2012 at 04:36 AM
Ed, as before, I must say thank you. I wasn't 100% sure it was you speaking.


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