It seems fitting to highlight suburban D.C. and Baltimore Patch government reporting during Sunshine Week, a national initiative going on this week that promotes open government and encourages journalists and residents to talk about the public’s right to know what the government is doing.
If you're ever curious about what your local journalists do, take a look at some of our stories below:
The fight last year to learn the salary of newly hired Baltimore County Public Schools deputy superintendent Renee Foose was followed closely by many in the Baltimore County region. Patch Editor Bryan Sears made a verbal request for the salary, was asked to file a written request (even though salaries are public record). A Baltimore County schools public information official told Sears that without a written request "it will be a cold day in hell before you get the information." The schools system ultimately released the information to Patch, 35 days after it was requested verbally: a $214,000 salary for Foose.
Baltimore County Police agreed to allow Patch reporters to view a daily log of arrests and incidents after an editor was denied access to public records in an audit to test compliance with Maryland’s open record laws.
Baltimore County Patch editor Marc Shapiro and former editor Alex Pyles covered the debate from beginning to end over whether to build a water tower in a residential area of Owings Mills and Reisterstown—an idea that was eventually nixed by the county executive himself. A resident concerned about the proposed water tower likened the dogged local reporting of Shapiro and Pyles to that of Woodward and Bernstein.
Carroll County commissioners ignited a several-month long controversy over the decision to use up to $10,000 in county money for an event on PlanMaryland, a state plan aimed at stemming urban sprawl. The admission-only county event drew ridicule from around the state from those who criticized it for being ideologically stacked against the plan. The backlash didn’t end there. The State of Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board ruled this year that the commissioners violated state open meetings laws for charging admission to the forum.
Less than a month before 3-year-old Elijah LaJeuness died in what police ruled a homicide, the Howard County Department of Social Services agreed to allow supervised contact between the child and his “alleged maltreator.” The news was broken by Patch with the help of an anonymous source and documents obtained from the Maryland Department of Human Resources. LaJeuness died April 13 of asphyxia at his Columbia home, according to a death certificate. No charges have been filed in his death.
Other Watchdog Headlines from Patch
- Frazier: Vote for Same-Sex Marriage is ‘Vote Against Children’
- (UPDATED) Meshkin Excluded, Then Allowed in School Board Meeting
- County Will Study Expanding Public Parking
- Freedom Trail Founder Resigns in Conflict With County Officials
- Maryland Del. James Malone's Hurricane Spam Raises Ethical Questions
- County Disbands Homeless Encampment, Displacing Eight
Have a local government matter you’d like Patch to investigate? Email Lisa Rossi at firstname.lastname@example.org