A Funny Thing Happened at the Forum...
It's been an interesting election season in Howard County. The Board of Education race has had a bumpy road to say the least. Last year at the Delegation Town Hall, many stories were heard of problems with the HCPSS ignoring MD Public Information Act requests, ignoring bullying, concealing mold and related health issues, etc. Then, there was the widespread disapproval of the renewal of Superintendent Foose's contract, especially given the way it was handled. Now with the passing of legislation to audit the HCPSS public information act denials, it seems there's been a "scandal of the week" going on for months now. Several have had to do with candidate issues, most with Ann Delacy, who has taken much umbrage at The People's Voice for having endorsed our candidates. That seems ironic to me, given she didn't even bother to fill out our questionnaire, nor did any incumbents. Nor did any of the incumbents seek the Apple Ballot endorsement (not that they had any chance of getting it, in my opinion, which is the real reason they didn't seek it).
I attend nearly all Board of Education candidate forums. At a couple of forums that I could not attend, the Delacy campaign took pot shots at The People's Voice by making statements that were factually incorrect. Thus, I decided I'd not miss another one, and that I (and others in the audience) would record portions of the forums for future viewing and sharing. This seems to have touched a nerve in this already touchy, muddy environment of incumbent fears of transparency. At the Mt. Hebron forum this past Wednesday night, Ann Delacy started off the evening by announcing she had spoken to her attorney that day, and stated that she would not be videotaped. There was a palpable gape from the audience. One person asked, "Well, can we take a picture"? I acquiesced to Ms. Delacy's request, well, demand, even though I firmly believed she had no right to make it.
This was a public forum, after all, where the hosts had no rules about videotaping. This is an elected public official. This is a political event where she is seeking reelection to a public office. Did I say the word public enough? So, I called my own lawyer, a litigator with The Piper Firm. She was shocked. She told me that the law is absolutely clear here. Delacy had NO right to make that demand, and it is not likely any attorney would tell her she had the legal right not to be taped in this situation. Case law challenges are numerous and clear on this topic, and not in her favor. This was political speech. This was a public forum. The host had no such rules. Her demand and mention of an attorney implied a misrepresentation of the law, and violated 1st amendment rights. Yes, in MD you cannot audiotape without permission, but only in a private conversation; it does not apply to where privacy is not rationally expected, and certainly not in a public place, and especially not from a public official during political speech!!! There is a very long list of exceptions to this "right" she declared to have.
Legal aspects aside, the irony of this situation made me bite my lips to keep from laughing out loud. The lack of trust, the lack of transparency, the lack of collaboration with the community, all these problems with the Board, even a question asked AT the forum last night about transparency, and Delacy says "I will not be videotaped."
Please, please vote in this Howard County Board of Education race. Pay attention to the candidates. Vote for three challengers. See The People's Voice endorsements. And check out www.HoCoSOS.com for reasons the incumbents Delacy, Giles and Siddiqui should not be reelected.