Maryland government corruption
|Report It •||The Good •||The Bad •||The Ugly|
The two journalists, Hannah Giles (20) and James O'Keefe (25), dressed up as a prostitute and a pimp, respectively, before entering the Baltimore ACORN office. They claimed to hope to open a prostitution ring in a house that ACORN would help them mortgage. Two women advised them on how to evade paying taxes, how to disguise the prostitution business, how to effectively hide underage El Salvadorian girls in the house and business over the course of the interview.
The ACORN representatives suggested that the prostitution ring be coded a "performing arts" business and that they could write off about $7,000 of the estimated $8,000-$9,000 monthly income for taxes.
Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La) says the videos show multiple incidents of tax fraud and called for a hearing to investigate the group's tax filing assistance programs.
Rep. Boustany said he is seeking a hearing of the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee in order to investigate ACORN’s activities.
The Washington Examiner reported that they “found that ACORN has received at least $53 million in federal money since 1994.”
Baltimore, Maryland City Council President Jack Young introduce the Transparency and Accountability Bill. The measure permits televising the meetings of the city's Liquor Board, Board of Municipal Zoning Appeals and Board of Estimates, which the proposed resolution describes as Baltimore's "most influential decision-making bodies." The bill states that such action would "provide greater transparency, accountability, and openness to the workings of government and to give a wider audience to Baltimore City citizens unable to attend government meetings in person."  Baltimore's budget office says the plan would cost $120,000, $75,000 of which could be taken from fees paid by city cable customers.  The bill now moves to the desk of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
- Main article: Maryland public pensions
Maryland will likely have to add $189 million to its teacher and employee pension funds by next year. Lawmakers learned this on November 4 as officials with the State Retirement Agency explained results from fiscal 2009.
The $17.5 billion needed to close the gap is in addition to the approximately $28.6 billion that the pension office already has set aside.
This knowledge was announced at a meeting of the General Assembly’s Oversight Committee on Pensions. It will likely have a big effect on the state’s budgeting process next year.
Although Maryland already has a deficit of more than $2 billion, officials will likely need to increase contribution to the pension funds from $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion.
ACORN said it has suspended its tax program.
“We had already made that decision to not deliver those services,” said Bertha Lewis, ACORN chief executive officer.
ACORN and the two employees, fired after the incident, from the Baltimore, Maryland office filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the makers of the video. The suit contends the journalists gathered the audio illegally because Maryland law requires consent from both parties to record private conversations.
Tonja Thompson and Shera Williams were the employees in the video and were fired after it was posted. They are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which says they suffered “extreme emotional distress with attendant physical symptoms and injury to their reputations.”
James O'Keefe, III and Hannah Giles, who played the pimp and prostitute in the video, are defendants in this suit. Conservative columnist and blogger, Andrew Breitbart, posted the videos on his website, Big Government, and is listed in the suit papers.
Breitbart told The Associated Press that he looked forward to a lawsuit. He expects more negative details about ACORN to be discovered in the process of the suit.
The lawsuit says the videos damaged ACORN’s reputation and seeks barring further distribution. The suit is seeking $2 million as compensation for damages, $1 million for ACORN and $500,000 for each of the former employees. It also seeks $1 million in punitive damages from O'Keefe, Giles and Breitbart.
“While everyone, including them, agrees that some of the things they said were dumb,” Andrew Freeman, the former ACORN employees' lawyer, said, “in Maryland we have a right to say dumb things in the privacy of our homes and offices without fear of being taped and without fear of being splashed all over the Internet.”
The FBI began investigating Hornsby in 2004, after the Baltimore Sun reported he secretly steered a school system contract worth nearly $1 million to LeapFrog SchoolHouse, without disclosing that then girlfriend Sienna Owens was a sales representative with the company. Owens testified that she gave him half of her $20,000 commission in cash.
Additionally, Hornsby agreed to pay a long time business associate, $145,000 after arranging for her to negotiate a contract with Prince George schools. Prosecutors played a video of the two meeting in a hotel room in December 2004, where Hornsby is seen taking $1,000 in cash from an informant and putting it in his pocket.
A year ago the federal jury in his case deadlocked on the 16 corruption charges prosecutors had brought against Hornsby. The indictment was revised, with 6 new charges added, and on July 23 he was convicted on six of the 22 total counts, acquitted on two, with the rest deadlocked.
"If you want to use the Internet to view the inspection report on your aged parent's nursing home, Maryland's the place to be. But if you want to do an online check on the certification of your child's teacher, you're out of luck.
A new report shows that Maryland's government is neither as transparent as Texas' nor as opaque as Mississippi's in the information offered on its Web sites. The Free State, tied for 18th place out of 50, can claim to be on the clear side of translucent government."
"The Freedom of Information Act makes government more transparent. Shedding light on public information helps citizens remain vigilant against government malfeasance, and helps elected officials by clearing the air surrounding controversial issues.
Requests for public information are common. But when Casa de Maryland filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office to obtain documents detailing training and arrest records, some of our elected officials balked. Frederick Mayor Jeff Holtzinger calls Casa de Maryland’s legal request "an outrageous waste of taxpayer money.” Sheriff Chuck Jenkins calls it "absolutely outrageous.” Both leaders are wrong."
"One of our main goals in this newsroom is to make full and thorough use of two laws intended to make government as transparent as possible.
Under these acts, the public -- that's right, anyone -- can make a request to government to reveal anything considered public information."
"An attorney for the Somerset County Sanitary Commission who filed a Freedom of Information Act request for state documents has been told it will cost him more than $200,000 for photocopies and clerical work.
"That's a lot of reproduction," said attorney Robin Cockey, who is representing the Sanitary Commission in a lawsuit against the Maryland Department of the Environment. "I've never seen anything like this."
Cockey said he was "a little surprised" at the charges.
"Times are tight," he said. "Maybe this is the way they raise revenue at the Department of the Environment.""
"Frederick's mayor has a solution that he said could help the county and city's economic crunch and all of the controversy surrounding Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins and Casa de Maryland: send the nonprofit's state funding to the city.
Mayor W. Jeff Holtzinger spoke out against the lawsuit, deposition, and consequent sanctions that Casa de Maryland recently brought against the sheriff in a Public Information Act suit, where the group seeks extensive records regarding arrests made under the county's 287g program.
Casa has long battled the county's participation in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's local immigration enforcement program. It came to a head last month when Jenkins did not attend a deposition. The group then filed papers to impose sanctions on the sheriff, which includes paying for the group's legal fees."
"The state's largest immigrant advocacy group, CASA de Maryland, is asking the Montgomery County Circuit Court to compel Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins to give a deposition.
The request is the latest facet of a lawsuit brought against the sheriff's office by CASA on Nov. 25, 2008.
That suit requested the release of information related to the county's 287(g) program, which allows trained sheriff's office deputies and officers to enforce immigration laws."
"Nine months after his original request, John Cullen received a package from the Wicomico County State's Attorney Office.
After three written requests and a hearing petition, Cullen received a package Friday containing hundreds of pages of reports and documents about 3 inches thick.
The package came after a judge ruled in Cullen's favor in the civil suit he filed against Davis Ruark, the Wicomico County State's Attorney. A Wicomico County Circuit Court judge ordered Ruark to furnish Cullen with the reports and other documents related to a Somerset County Detention Center investigation. On Dec. 10, the judge ordered Davis to release the information, at his expense, within 10 days."
"Sometimes public records are also police records. Some police records, for obvious reasons, are not available to the public. You would no doubt get a polite “no” if you asked the police for the names and addresses of confidential informants.
But citizens sometimes need copies of police records — for instance, an accident or burglary report to support a claim made to an insurance company. According to police, the department releases about 19,000 reports each year to individuals and insurance companies."
"Believe it. Trust them.
The constituency had questions. They demanded answers and the Allegany County commissioners and staff offered almost none."
"The University Park Town Council is considering a resolution that would require residents to pay for access to public records.
However, Councilman Ed DeSaussure (Ward 7) said at Monday’s council meeting that the resolution could deter residents from obtaining files that are legal public record under the Maryland Public Information Act."
"Under Maryland law, all government e-mails are considered public documents, open to being viewed by the public, so long as they don’t contain sensitive personnel information or refer to ongoing legal actions or land transactions. Governments are obligated to provide copies of public communications if requested under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
However, there is a loophole."
"The NAACP can review Maryland State Police documents that contain allegations of racial profiling, a judge has ruled, granting a victory to the civil rights organization in a drawn-out legal fight.
Baltimore County Circuit Judge Timothy J. Martin decided Friday that a panel of three lawyers chosen by the NAACP's Maryland conference will have 120 days to review the documents and select those they want copied. The names of the officers and the people who filed complaints against them will be redacted."
<ref>tags exist, but no
<references/>tag was found