The following is an update from Robert Flanagan sent to Scott E’s Blog:
A proposal to gift publicly owned real estate for development in historical Ellicott City for the purpose of creating “cash flow” for a non-profit controlled by Calvin Ball, sparked controversy in 2019, among members of a citizens’ committee (Ellicott City Community Development Exploratory Committee) he created. The public land includes the Court House, the old Post Office Building, parking areas and Main Street buildings acquired by the County for flood control. Shania Hernandez, Ball’s staffer who he appointed to be advisor to the Committee, kept the controversy under wraps by cancelling its final scheduled meeting. Under Ms. Hernandez’s direction, the Committee Report was drafted using emails, which is a violation of the Open Meetings Act. This information is gleaned from over 700 pages of documents that the Howard County Circuit Court ordered the County to produce in Flanagan’s lawsuit filed in August 2021. Flanagan has expanded the scope of his lawsuit to include this new information made available to him. Responding to Flanagan’s new claims, the County has filed a request to delay the trial from February to April. Flanagan has told the County Office of Law that he will not oppose the delay. However, he is pressing ahead under court rules allowing for discovery of additional information. The issues in the lawsuit now include how, why, and by whom, the authority of Mr. Ball’s office was used to prevent the Office of Law from reviewing the response to Flanagan denying his public information request. Review by the County’s lawyers is a policy adopted in order to protect the rights of requestors to public information. Flanagan is asking the County to admit that an individual with close family and political connections to Mr. Ball is responsible for this flagrant abuse of his office.
The County continues to resist revealing a massive amount of information about the Community Development Exploratory Committee that recommended the creation of a Community Development Organization modelled after one in Baltimore City. Partially redacted emails reveal that Ms. Hernandez successfully pushed Committee Chair, Mike Smith, to agree to the cancellation of the Committee’s final public meeting. He acquiesced after she rebuffed two proposals for an additional meeting. Instead, over a two-day period, the Committee used emails to work over a series of drafts that produced the Report in favor of creating the non-profit to be controlled by Calvin Ball and allowing the outright gifting of public land. Opinions of the Open Meetings Compliance Board have repeatedly warned that the use of emails to deliberate on public business violates the Open Meetings Act. Flanagan has learned that the Howard County Office of Law frequently warns County officials, Boards, and Committees against the use of emails by governmental units subject to the Open Meetings Act.
Flanagan’s Second Amended Complaint and supporting emails are available upon request.
See the original PDF sent to Scott E’s Blog: mpia new release 1.9.22.rev
See the motion to postpone by Howard County here:
To date I have not seen a press release from Howard County or the current County Executive on this topic. If one is put out I will be sure to cover it here on the Blog.
See previous articles on this topic here:
Sep 2021: Bob Flanagan is suing Howard County for access to Public Records; Local Howard County podcaster Tom Coale a key figure in the suit
December 2021: Information on the pending lawsuit filed by Robert Flanagan in Howard County