Action Committee for Transit Files Suit Over
Improper Secrecy in Campaign Against Purple Line
Press release issued February 2, 2015
The Action Committee for Transit (ACT) filed suit in District Court against the Town of Chevy Chase on Friday, charging that the Town government violated the state Public Information Act in keeping hidden important information about its campaign against the Purple Line.
“For two decades plus, Maryland’s sunshine laws have required towns to disclose whom they hire, for what purpose, and at what cost. The public and ACT have a right to know the details of the Town’s contracts with lobbyists and consultants and what they are doing to delay or prevent the construction of the Purple Line,” said ACT president Nick Brand. “The Town government cannot use exorbitant fees to hide their taxpayer-funded activities.”
ACT estimates that the government of the 1,200-household Town of Chevy Chase has spent well over half a million dollars in public money on lobbyists and consultants in an effort to block the light rail Purple Line from running on the abandoned rail line behind 30 homes on its northern border with downtown Bethesda. Currently the Town government is paying $29,000 a month to the Washington lobbying and law firm of the brother of House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Bill Shuster, yet has not made public the activities that are being undertaken at public expense.
Although the municipality’s annual budget is nearly $3.5 million, and its reserve fund nearly $9 million, ACT’s requests for minutes and other documents have been stalled by demands for fees of over $170 per hour for staff time and 50 cents per page for copying. The suit seeks to order the Town government to turn over the requested documents and to enjoin the charging of fees for the documents, per Maryland’s Public Information Act.
In a recent letter to Governor Hogan about the Purple Line, the Town Council of Chevy Chase complained that “the lack of transparency and tangible information” is “discouraging” and “unacceptable.” The Town Council added that “the people of Maryland deserve clear, honest, and objective information regarding how their money will be spent.” ACT couldn't agree more.
ACT, a grass-roots citizen group supporting transit in Montgomery County, is being represented on a pro bono basis by the law firm of Baker and Hostetler. The complaint and supporting documents are posted on ACT's website.