Maryland transparency headlines
This article is a list of transparency related news from Maryland.
Undercover reporting reveals corruption in ACORN 2010-11-24 11:53:20
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.
Baltimore City Council Approves Transparency Bill 2010-11-23 22:52:55
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.
Maryland state pension gap grows to $17.5 billion 2009-11-05 08:59:37
- 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 sues journalists 2009-11-01 08:58:19
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.”
Former schools chief sentenced to six years in corruption case 2009-08-04 12:53:05
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.
Maryland's not as open as it could be 2009-06-05 11:46:25
"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."
On FOIA request, deliberate delay invites suspicion 2009-06-05 11:44:08
"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."
Ask the Editor — Shining the light, we hope 2009-06-05 11:42:15
"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."
Copies for well lawsuit would have cost $200,000 2009-06-05 11:40:23
"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.""
Mayor: Send Casa funds to Monocacy Boulevard instead 2009-06-05 11:38:16
"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." Template:2.default
- ↑ O'Keefe and ACORN
- ↑ "Third Videotape Reveals ACORN Assisting 'Pimp,' 'Prostitute' in Brooklyn, N.Y.," FoxNews, September 14, 2009
- ↑ "ACORN got $53 million in federal funds since 94, now eligible for up to $8 billion more," Washington Examiner, September 14, 2009
- ↑ Jack's Journal "City Council Finalizes Government Transparency Bill" Nov. 10, 2010
- ↑ City of Baltimore Council Bill 10-0224R
- ↑ WTOP.com "Baltimore council president wants to televise meetings" Nov. 1, 2010
- ↑ Suit papers
- ↑ Cite error: Invalid
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- ↑ Baltimore Sun, Hornsby gets 6 years in corruption case, November 25, 2008
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