Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why Are FOIAs Flying Around The Calvert County Commission?

So, I have been overdosing on the governor’s race as of late, and therefore decided to look for something that was a complete change of pace. Fortunately, I had to look no farther than my inbox.

There I found a tale of some allegedly nefarious activities going on in small town Maryland. It specifically involves allegations that local officials and their political allies may be unfairly targeting a prominent local business in Solomons Island.

Owned by P.T. Tiki, Inc., the Tiki Bar is an institution in Calvert County. This laid-back island-style bar packs in thousands of customers when it is open during the summer months. Further, the Tiki Bar has earned a reputation as a good corporate citizen, as well as the kind of fun, family-friendly establishment which is not the kind of place you’d associate with controversy.

So, I was surprised to receive information that a law firm retained by the Tiki Bar’s owner to “investigate the potential of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud concerning government officials.” Specifically, that there is a possibility that certain “conspirators” may be “engaged in nefarious acts” intended to harm the Tiki Bar’s ability to do business.

Indeed I contacted the law firm handling the investigation. According to George S. Robinson, IV, a partner in the firm Robinson|Robinson, FOIA requests related to the investigation have gone out to the entire Calvert County Commission – whose five members are Commissioners Gerald W. Clark, Barbara A. Stinnet, Linda L. Kelly, Susan Shaw, and Wilson H. Parran – as well as every member of the Commission’s staff – including Maureen L. Frederick, Joyce Rulapaugh, Corinne J. Cook, and Terry L. Shannon. Through a phone call, I confirmed that the FOIA requests were indeed sent and received.

“We have reviewed many unfounded complaints filed against the Tiki Bar that we believe were designed to interfere with the business of the Tiki Bar for purposes that have nothing to do with the complaints themselves,” stated Robinson, who also alleged that there was even one instance where a federal law enforcement official “was perceived to be threatened on Federal property” in order to get him to remove himself from the bar’s liquor license.

Robinson says he has interviewed a number of witnesses who are aware of the situation and have provided valuable information. He further stated that his firm is broadening the investigation into other areas of local government.

What’s going on here? From what I hear, the owners of the Tiki Bar have been exemplary members of the community, providing jobs and contributing to many of the local charities. They even have plans to take the business to the next level through an ambitious redevelopment plan. 

However, there appears to be a few members of the community with possible allies on the County Commission that may have their own designs for the property. According to one of the Tiki Bar owners, the number of complaints that are filed against the Tiki Bar “borders on the ludicrous, but coupled with recent discoveries, it appears that there may be something very troubling behind the origination of these complaints. We are not going away because of these baseless complaints, but we are determined to get to the bottom of why they are being filed.”  

Even in the sleepiest communities, small town politics can be fascinating. It’s not every day that all the members of a local legislative body and their staffs receive FOIA requests, so I am going to keep an eye on this to see if it develops into something truly salacious.  Hey, I have to think beyond November 2. At least now I know I will have something else to write about. I look forward to following this story and seeing where this investigation leads.

1 comment:

  1. Is that the George Robinson who Aaron Kazi brought in to "advise" Joe Steffen not to testify about Ehrlich's illegal firings? (and yes there were illegal firings and massive cover-ups)