Collins Alleges Kelly Illegally Sought Personal Information

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Collins Alleges Kelly Illegally Sought Personal Information

La Plata, MD - 4/17/2012

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By Andy Marquis

Charles County Commissioner Vice President Reuben Collins (D) alleged Commissioner President Candice Quinn Kelly illegally had employees seek personal information, tax records and employee contracts and called for outside legal counsel to investigate on Tuesday.
The motion, which again came up in the final minutes of the meeting, seemingly floored three of the commissioners. Kelly started to respond, saying she would shed light on ethics problems regarding Collins but said she would do so in a future meeting. The motion’s last minute passage added more fuel to the proverbial fire in an already polarized county.
“Based entirely on credible and easily verifiable evidence, I am requesting a complete, impartial and thorough investigation on the allegation that the Commissioner President requested and received copies of documents that are part of my personnel file including, but not limited to, copies of my 2010 W-2 forms without my consent,” Collins said reading from a prepared statement. “When the subordinate employee was instructed by personnel in the Finance office that she could not retrieve the information because it would likely violate rights, she was told by a senior level county employee to find a way to do it. At least three county employees, including the County Administrator, were aware of the request according to the allegation.
“If true that this directive was set forth by the Commissioner President after she vowed on the morning of September 15, 2011 to do ‘everything in her power to destroy me politically’. This allegation is extraordinary because she unethically and perhaps illegally used her position of authority to direct a subordinate employee to seek out information on another commissioner with the intent to embarrass and harm. This request may potentially rise to being a political offense under Maryland Criminal Law Article 7-113(1). I request and I seek approval of the board to hire an independent investigator or counsel to begin my proposed investigation immediately.  I would like to emphasize to any county employees that will be the subject of this investigation that your rights are protected pursuant to applicable employment law and additionally due to the recently passed Charles County Whistleblowers legislation.
“I was totally floored when I heard this. I would not take anything like that lightly. I am an attorney. I recognize, without having credible evidence, even merely suggesting something of that magnitude would certainly be problematic. It’s very serious.”
Collins said he presented this because he was asked about specifics after the passage of Resolution 2012-18.
“I want to stay very much above the fray because it’s very easy for people to use these days and these seats for grandstanding, political posturing and for political character assaination,” Kelly said. “Let me just say this, I cannot discuss conversations that I have had with our internal auditors about how mileage and vehicle usage have been handled the four years prior to my coming in to office as well as the reporting, as well as the accuracy of documentation nor can I discuss what has transpired since I’ve been in office. I can only say that as the President of the Board of Commissioners, how we handle our internal reporting and documentation and the standard that we set for our employees and our elected officials is the standard and this county is committed, and I am as your president, committed to ensuring that we follow the law. That is all I’m going to say and I think I’ll leave it at that.”
“The citizens are our primary interest and that’s why the resolution was presented,” Collins said. “I was asked about specifics. There will be an opportunity for that type of discussion on the specific matters that made it necessary to suggest a resolution like that.”
“I was under the impression that our W-2 forms are public knowledge and could be requested by any citizen,” Commissioner Ken Robinson (D: 1st) said. “I’m just confused about there being something criminal.”
Kelly read Collins’ motion, saying that Collins wanted outside counsel to begin a criminal investigation. The motion to hire legal counsel to begin the investigation was seconded by Davis.
“I did not say criminal,” Collins said. 
“You did use the word criminal,” Kelly said. “Would you please restate your motion.”
“These are strong allegations,” Commissioner Bobby Rucci (D: 4th), who later voted for it, said.  Rucci asked Collins for evidence, but Collins would not present any, only saying there was credible evidence of the accusation.
Immediately following the motion’s passage, Rucci seemed to have concern and Kelly fired back, saying she had concerns about Collins' own ethics problems but would save the discussion for a later date. The meeting was adjourned with the tension once more being incredibly tight.

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