Thursday, October 16, 2014

UPDATE: Press Conference Criticizing Hogan not Authorized by WCPS or City of Hagerstown

HAGERSTOWN, MD - As reported by the Herald-Mail, on Monday October 13, Hagerstown Mayor Gysberts as well as Delegate John Donoghue and a representative from the Washington County Teachers Association held a press conference at the site of the future West City Elementary School, which is owned by Washington County Public Schools. This press conference criticized Maryland Governor candidate Larry Hogan, claiming that his savings plan would result in $450 million in school construction funds being cut.

In order to help determine if this press conference was paid for with tax dollars or a political action committee, WashCo Chronicle filed a Maryland Public Information Act request with Washington County Public Schools, requesting a copy of the completed Application for Use of Facilities.

In response to this request, WCPS provided the following:
Mr. Buckler,
In response to your request, there is no “Application for Use of Facilities” on file for the event referenced in your e-mail below.  Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Richard Wright
Richard Wright, APR  |  Communications Officer
When asked for clarification if the usage of the property was not authorized, the following statement was provided by Richard Wright, communications officer for WCPS
"That is correct. We did not receive any requests for the use of the space."
According to the WCPS website, requests for usage of school facilities should be made two weeks prior to the activity date. Non-school groups wishing to use school facilities must present proof of liability insurance, and if applicable, workers compensation insurance. Regulations state that no signs, banners, or the like are to be placed without authorization by the school system. Additionally, "political signage" shall not be placed on or displayed on school property until after 5:00 am on election day.

Washington County Public Schools also has established a fee schedule for various group categories. Fees will vary based upon facilities used and the length of time of the activity. Since no Application for Use of Facilities exists, and the usage of the property was not authorized by WCPS, no fee was likely paid for usage of the property during the press conference.

Update 1:
On October 27, 2014, Erin Wolfe from the City of Hagerstown provided the following statement to WashCo Chronicle:
The press conference was not hosted by the City of Hagerstown nor did the City of Hagerstown pay any costs associated with it.
Given that this was not a City function, your other question should be directed to the individuals or organization associated with the event.
My apologies for the delay in the response.
Erin Wolfe
Communications Manager
This leaves the question - who did host this press conference, and who paid for any costs involved?

Article by Ken Buckler, Editor