Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt has dropped his criminal investigation into Montgomery County’s support of ballot Question B, and has asked Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler to provide a formal opinion on the matter.
Question B is a ballot question asking voters to affirm a County Council law that takes away the police union’s right to bargain the effects of management decisions.
In a letter to Gansler, Davitt said the actions of county officials or employees “were clearly undertaken without criminal intent in good-faith reliance upon reasonable and competent (even if erroneous) legal advice.”
The county had based its actions on an opinion from County Attorney Marc P. Hansen, which found the county’s actions both legal and appropriate. Davitt wrote that he did not entirely agree with the opinion, but he also said Hansen’s arguments were not without merit.
Davitt asked Gansler to weigh in on whether Maryland Election Law prohibited or permitted county government to engage in spending county resources to produce and distribute campaign materials. He also asked which, if any, provisions apply to campaign finance activity by a government and if public employees on the job can produce and distribute that material if it advocates the position of the government on the issue.
While not mentioned by the prosecutor, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 said it asked Davitt to investigate the county’s actions.
The union questioned the use of county funds and county employee time to advocate for ballot Question B and changes to how county police bargain the effects of management decisions.
In 2010, Hansen had concluded that state campaign finance law did not apply to the government advocating for its legislation.
Looking for confirmation, Hansen said he, at the time, consulted Jeffrey Darsie, assistant attorney general with the Maryland Board of Elections, who informally agreed with him.
David Paulson, spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General, said no formal Attorney General opinion was made on the issue in 2010.