Doc­u­ment states le­gal fees paid to former com­mis­sioner

Cur­rent com­mis­sion­ers ig­nored opin­ion of past county at­tor­ney

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - See FEES Page A9 By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

Con­fi­den­tial doc­u­ments ob­tained by the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent in­di­cate that the cur­rent Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers paid re­im­burse­ments for le­gal fees to a former county em­ployee and former county Com- mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Candice Quinn Kelly be­tween De­cem­ber 2015 and Fe­bru­ary 2016.

Two check or­ders made out to Kelly and Re­becca Brid­gett, former county ad­min­is­tra­tor, to­taled $39,624 with Kelly re­ceiv­ing $26,688.83. Brid­gett, who is now the county ad­min­is­tra­tor in St. Mary’s, re­ceived $12,935.17.

In a le­gal opin­ion, former act­ing county at­tor­ney El­iz­a­beth Theobalds

said Kelly was not el­i­gi­ble for le­gal re­im­burse­ment be­cause fees were in­curred in con­nec­tion with an in- ves­ti­ga­tion ini­ti­ated by the county. Brid­gett’s claim, upon re­view, was also in­el­i­gi­ble for con­sid­er­a­tion of re­im­burse­ment.

“There is only one prior oc­ca­sion in which at­tor­ney’s fees were re­im­bursed to an em­ployee,” Theobalds said in the opin­ion. “The cir- cum­stances were dis­tin­guish­able in that the au­thor­ity for re­im­burse­ment was found in the by­laws of the com­mis­sion in which the acts were al­leged to have oc­curred.”

The fees were re­quested after a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Kelly’s re­quest for the W-2 tax forms of former Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres­i­dent Reuben Collins. Kelly was never charged with any wrong­do­ing.

In De­cem­ber 2011, ac­cord­ing to tes­ti­mony of county em­ploy­ees, Kelly, who was com­mis­sion­ers’ pres­i­dent at the time, in­structed a county em­ployee to re­trieve Col- lins’ tax re­turns. The grand jury tes­ti­mony shows that then-county ad­min­is­tra­tor Brid­gett re­in­forced Kelly’s di­rec­tive when the em- ployee was initially re­buffed by the county pay­roll of­fice. Kelly ul­ti­mately went un­charged with any crime. Un­der fed­eral law, tax in­for­ma­tion is con­sid­ered pri­vate and may not be dis­closed with­out that per­son’s con­sent.

In to­tal, Theobalds’ opin­ion states, the county re­ceived three re­quests for le­gal re­im­burse­ment from Kelly, Brid­gett and Scar­lett Mower, who was the former di­rec­tor of Cit­i­zens’ Li­ai­son for the county. But ac­cord­ing to the check or­ders, only Kelly and Brid­gett re­ceived any re­im­burse­ment from the county.

The Mary­land In­de­pen­dent reached out to the county at­tor­ney’s of­fice through the county’s pub­lic in­for­ma­tion of­fice, but be­cause the memo is a con­fi­den­tial le­gal opin­ion re­leased with­out au­tho­riza­tion, the county at­tor­ney de­clined to com­ment.

Later in Theobalds’ opin­ion, she said Mower was not el­i­gi­ble for con­sid­er­a­tion as the fees were not in­curred in con­nec­tion with an in­ves­ti­ga­tion or in­quiry.

The Mary­land In­de­pen­dent reached out to Charles County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D) to re­quest com­ment, but he said he was un­able to com­ment be­cause of the le­gal­ity of the mat­ter.

Both Com­mis­sion­ers Ken Robin­son (D) and De­bra Davis (D) also said they were un­able to com­ment on the mat­ter be­cause the doc­u­ment is a le­gal mat­ter. Le­gal mat­ters are han­dled in closed ses­sion by the county.

Kelly de­clined to com­ment when ap­proached by a re­porter. Brid­gett did not re­turn calls for com­ment.

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