Document states legal fees paid to former commissioner
Current commissioners ignored opinion of past county attorney
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.