The gaslighting, projection and deflection of blame with these statements should be clear to every reader of past HoCo Watchdogs posts on this issue.
County Executive Ball’s stubborn refusal to take this issue seriously and his cavalier attempts to paint the lawsuit and public concerns associated with it as a “partisan stunt” should deeply concern every Howard County resident.
While the concerns raised by issue are certainly relevant during this election cycle and are sensibly being employed as a point of attack by Allan Kittleman, Ball’s opponent in this year’s County Executive race, the framing of this issue and the lawsuit that resulted from it as an election-year stunt could not be further from the truth.
Do these statements by County Executive Ball sound like the words of a public leader who recognizes the broken laws, deep breaches of public trust and disregarded ethics standards that he is responsible for?
If Dr. Ball cannot hold himself and his staff personally accountable for these actions or even recognize the gravity and damage caused by them, how can he be trusted to not commit these same illegal and unethical acts again?
So what can be done to bring about full accountability for this situation? First, share this HoCo Watchdogs story as far and wide as possible on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere to bring awareness of this issue to all Howard County residents. Discuss the issue openly and regularly and contact your County Council and State representatives to let them know about this situation, how you feel about it, and ask them what can be done. Contact media outlets and ask them why them have not covered this issue yet.
While the civil trial for the Public Information Request violation part of this situation resulted in the county voluntarily admitting its crimes and offering up the maximum $1,000 fine (paid by us taxpayers), there was strong evidence of willful intent, which is a criminal violation (misdemeanor) of section 4-402 of the Maryland Public Information Act.
One or more motivated Howard County residents could contact the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor and convince them to pursue a criminal case in this matter. While the damages for such a case would be the same as the result of the civil trial ($1,000), a criminal case would allow for a formal trial to take place and the parties involved would need to testify under oath instead of just giving depositions, which would make it harder for the County Executive’s sister-in-law to state “I don’t recall” over 300 times, as she did in her deposition.
Another action that can be taken is to support the idea for formally creating a Howard County Office of Inspector General, to act as a formal watchdog for county government. While this idea hasn’t been formally proposed yet, it is something that county residents could express support and interest in by reaching out to County Councilwoman Liz Walsh (who is rumored to be considering proposing such a bill) and other County Council members to let them know that there is strong interest for such a county oversight position.