County Executive Leggett Stonewalls Citizens’ Public Information Request Regarding Brickyard Lease
Preserving our Neighborhood
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Keith Williams 301-983-5334
POTOMAC, MD ‐ December 19, 2011 – County Executive Ike Leggett has refused to comply with a Maryland Public Information Act (PIA) request in regard to the Brickyard lease.
On November 9, 2011, the Brickyard Coalition, the West Montgomery County Citizens’ Association and the Civic Association of River Falls, sent, through their attorney, a hand‐ delivered PIA request to County Executive Ike Leggett. The Public Information Act provides that records be produced as soon as possible, but not longer than 30 days, after a request is received. (State Government Article 10‐614). The deadline for the response by the County Executive was December 9, 2011. No response to the Public Information Act request has been received from Mr. Leggett.
After the County Executive refused to comply with the first request by the mandated deadline, a second letter was hand‐delivered to Mr. Leggett on December 13, 2011, stating that if all records were not provided by Thursday, December 15th, the citizens would be compelled to assume the failure of Mr. Leggett to respond to the Public Information Request was willful and knowing, which is a criminal violation of the Act. Mr. Leggett has also stonewalled the citizens’ follow‐up request for information.
The public’s right to information about government activities lies at the heart of a democratic government. Maryland’s Public Information Act grants the people of Maryland broad access rights to public records. For two years, the County Executive plotted in secret to lease the Brickyard property from the Board of Education and convert it to private ball fields, with only a few days notice to the community, which completely subverted citizen access to governmental actions affecting them.
“We demand that our County Executive obey the law and immediately provide us with all records relating to the Brickyard lease as requested in our PIA letter,” said Keith Williams, President of the Civic Association of River Falls. “The citizens of Montgomery County have a legal right to examine and review all records that relate to his secret decision. If the County Executive fails to comply with the law, we will have no choice but to take legal action,” added Williams.
The PIA provides for both civil and criminal penalties for violations of the Act. In addition to injunctive relief, a court may award actual damages against a governmental unit if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that a defendant knowingly and willfully failed to disclose a public record or part of a record that a person was entitled to inspect. SG §10‐ 623(d)(1). A Court may also award reasonable attorney fees and other litigation costs if an applicant “substantially prevails.” SG §10‐623(f)
By not complying with the Maryland Public Information law, Mr. Leggett is subject to criminal and civil liabilities for non‐compliance with this statute. A knowing or willful failure to comply with the Act is a criminal violation of the Act and any person violating the Act can be fined up to $1,000.00.
A Public Information request was also sent to David Dise, Director of General Services. Mr. Dise has belatedly provided incomplete records in regard to some members of his staff but has failed to provide any of his own records.
The Attorney General has more information regarding the Maryland Public Information Act at his web site, http://www.oag.state.md.us/Opengov/pia.htm