McCluskey’s Folly

February 4th, 2013

The commercial real estate market is in bad shape all over the country. Vacancy rates continue upward for both office and retail space and Centreville has not been spared.  A quick drive around town quickly verifies this.

There are currently ten empty storefronts in the heart of town with six of them right on the main street.  There are five empty storefronts in the Food Lion Shopping Center and three more vacant spots in the Acme shopping center.  These are all high visibility spots blessed with plenty of parking.

Entering Centreville from the south there’s a rather large office building on the left just off of 4-H Road which has remained significantly unrented since it was constructed several years ago.  However, by that point you have already passed numerous other empty office spaces.  Continue into town and you will find more vacant office space.

So why did the Centreville Town Council go into the commercial real estate business by purchasing the Cornell Maritime Press/Tidewater Publishers property at 101 Watson Road down by the Wharf?  In addition, how did the Town know to raise their initial bid by 66% from $400,000 to $655,000 to outbid a respected local businessman by only $5,000?

How could three council members with no commercial renting experience believe that they would be more successful with an out of the way property than qualified professionals owning prime, high traffic properties?  They were either extremely pretentious or they didn’t care.  Former Centreville Town Manager, Bob McGrory, along with his close friend, councilman Tim McCluskey, easily convinced the other council members to buy the Wharf buildings.  (Did I happen to mention that the closest home to the property is Tim McCluskey’s?)

Our town council members are the citizens’ representatives and they have not just let us down, their purchase of the Wharf buildings has shown a complete disregard for the impact on Centreville taxpayers.

Our town council has spent us into $12,000,000 in debt.  That’s over $7,650 in debt for each household in Centreville.  Almost every question asked by citizens in our town meetings are met with blank stares or condescending smiles, but never an answer.  More than ever we must persist in asking tough questions and not rest until we have answers to those questions. We deserve a full accounting of the purchase of the wharf buildings.

When difficult financial times strike businesses and families, we have to take cost saving steps to survive. Businesses and families (as well as towns) have been faced with cost impacts outside of our control (recession, declining property values, increased fuel and electricity costs) and we have to respond responsibly.  Why doesn’t our town council have to do the same?  They don’t because we don’t demand it.

Searching for the Truth, Answering Lance Richardson

January 29th, 2013

This article is in response to Lance Richardson’s recent explanation which you can read at the bottom of this page.

You can easily find this Blood Alcohol Level information on the internet:
At .15 the person is obviously drunk. Staggering, weaving, irrational behavior begins at this level. The equivalent of a half pint of whiskey is circulating in the bloodstream.
At .25 – .50 The person is very drunk and may lose consciousness.

Mr. Gray admitted to the police to consuming three glasses of wine in forty five minutes. According to bloodalcoholcalculator.org/ that would have put him at .058 for his size. His preliminary test was in the “very drunk and could lose consciousness” level. Could he have been lying to the officers? Do you think, at a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .25, trained officers were uncertain of Gray’s sobriety?

Mr. Richardson states that most drunk driving cases typically have three main components. These include the manner of driving, field sobriety tests, and a breath or blood test. Richardson’s use of the word “most” is significant because he knows full well that you don’t need all three factors to get a conviction. A large number of drunk drivers in accidents have been convicted of DWI that were too stinking drunk to comprehend any field sobriety test. There are many more scenarios resulting in convictions without satisfying all three of his criteria.

But let’s deal with the first of Lance Richardson’s criteria, manner of driving. The negligent driving charge was not the result  of Gray running the stop sign. As I understand, it was the result of Gray almost sideswiping the officer’s patrol car which initiated the officer’s pursuit. Mr. Richardson would have known this had he cared enough to interview the officer.  The second violation was running the stop sign.

Richardson’s standard number two is field sobriety tests.  Having a steel plate in your leg didn’t affect the following observations of the well trained officers (Did I mention that there were three of them on the scene?): “strong odor of alcohol, eyes blood shot, showed a nystagmus at 45 degrees, eyes lacked smooth pursuit, took thirteen steps instead of nine, stated that he had been drinking, blew a .25 which is over three times the legal limit.”  Sorry Mr. Richardson, these observations “would have carried the day” and you know it.

Richardson’s third condition is the breath or blood test. At the State Police Barracks Mr. Gray was given three chances to give an adequate sample for the alcohol concentration test. He was informed that if he did not blow hard enough it would result in a refusal to blow.  He failed.  At no time during this process was it  indicated that Gray had any respiratory problems.  Perhaps at .25, which is considered “very drunk” and “in danger of losing consciousness” it was just too difficult to do.

Now after stating that “this case wasn’t even close”, Mr. Richardson makes the declaration that it was Mr. Gray’s first offense as if that matters.  If Lance drops every first offense, then there’s never a second offense, is there? But Lance goes on to provide another defense for Mr. Gray because the road on which Gray was ultimately stopped “had never been dedicated to the Town of Centreville”.  I refer you to the following:

Maryland Transportation Section § 21-101.1.
(a)      The provisions of this title relating to the driving of vehicles refer only to the driving of vehicles on highways, except:
(1)      As provided in subsection (b) of this section; and
(2)      Where a different or additional place specifically is provided for.
(b)   (1)      A person may not drive a motor vehicle in violation of any provision of this title on any private property that is used by the public in general, or, in Calvert County, on any private road located within a residential subdivision or community.
(2)      A person may not drive a motor vehicle in violation of any provision of this title on any property that is owned by or under the control of this State or any of its political subdivisions, county boards of education, or community colleges and that is open to vehicular traffic and used by the public in general.
(3)      Any person who violates any provision of this subsection is in violation of the law to the same extent and is subject to the same penalty as if the motor vehicle were driven on a highway.

Brilliant defense, Mr. Richardson.  Shouldn’t you know the law? I believe that you do but choose to forget it when you’re giving lame explanations to the public.
As to treating everyone fairly, not so fast Mr. Richardson.  I did a little research and just last February a seventy year old man was stopped for speeding on Rt. 50. No erratic driving at all. He had bad knees, asthma and emphysema and when he tried to take the breath test, he medically could not. Two months later you introduced field sobriety tests and tried to convict him.  Did I mention that he too was a first offender? He most certainly was not wealthy, unlike Cal Gray.

I will conclude with this.  On December 17, 2012 you were asked under oath if you were involved in a nol pros involving Mr. Gray.  Under oath you asserted, “No.” You were also asked if you authorized a stet docket for Mr. Gray to which you replied, “I don’t know if I authorized it.”  But you knew that “the accused submitted to an alcohol evaluation”, that “he truly is a good man and a gentleman”, and that he “agreed to pay the negligent driving citation because he rolled the stop sign”.

In fact, you did sign Gray’s stet, you did speak with his attorney, and you did have full knowledge of the case as this recent explanation of yours bears out. If you felt that Mr. Gray was indeed innocent why didn’t you just drop the charges rather than put them on the stet docket where you could bring them back at any time?  You took Mr. Gray’s gift and contribution.  Do you really think that anyone believes there’s a  chance you would ever bring those charges back?

Is your integrity in question?  Yea, I’d say so and so have a lot of others!

Richardson’s response to last week’s post
As a prosecutor my job is to prosecute matters in the interest of justice. A trial is a search for the truth for me, for the State. The truth requires me to evaluate all evidence and information-something that the individuals attacking me have no interest in doing. The blogs and attacks on me really don’t warrant a response but I figured I would tell you the truth. The gentleman in question, and he truly is a good man and a gentleman, doesn’t deserve to have his good name besmirched. Yes he was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. The important fact that the individuals who are rushing to judgment fail to understand is the nuances of the admissibility of evidence. Lay people often believe that they know much more than they truly understand about the rules of evidence and trial work. Most drunk driving cases typically have three main components. These include the manner of driving, field sobriety tests, and a breath or blood test. In the matter in question there was no breath test. The individual attempted to submit to a breath test to determine blood alcohol concentration but he was unable to give a sufficient breath sample because of a medical condition. The driving was also inconsequential- the accused rolled a stop sign. He wasn’t weaving or driving erratically. The best evidence in the case was the battery of field sobriety exercises. What the general public fails to appreciate or understand is that field sobriety exercises are NOT recommended for individuals over the age of 65, or obese people or people with physical disabilities, just to name some of the factors to consider. The field sobriety manual that law enforcement training is mandated by is from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). The accused in this case was 70 years of age. I am leary to divulge this information but in an attempt at complete disclosure the accused had a variety of back, knee and other physical impairments that precluded him from being able to successfully complete such tests. He attempted the FST exercises but the probative value of said exercises was greatly outweighed by the physical limitations of the accused. Thus, forget the FSTs- they would not carry the day. A trier of fact would not be able to differentiate poor performance due to impairment by alcohol versus physical limitations. Criminal cases require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This case wasn’t even close. The gentleman would have been acquitted. Additionally it was a first offense- if it had not been then it would have most likely been a trial and a not guilty verdict. Regardless, the accused submitted to an alcohol evaluation which revealed that he did not have an alcohol problem. This gave my office peace of mind that this gentleman did not have an alcohol problem which translated to a low risk of possibility of being charged again in the future. He still agreed to pay the negligent driving citation because he rolled the stop sign. Ultimately if the matter had proceeded to trial I was also faced with yet an additional challenge to the initial stop- the road in question had never been dedicated to the Town of Centreville. If the initial stop had been ruled unlawful the trial would have been over at that juncture. I simply wanted to set the record straight for those who have only heard one side of the story which is replete with half truths. Yes this gentleman had contributed to my campaign. That wasn’t a consideration. I couldn’t prove the case. Whether I respect a person or dislike them, I treat them the same- fairly. If the people attacking me are alleging some bribe then logically shouldn’t that have come before the trial, not after? Sure I like the Ravens. My dad has season tickets so I go to games all the time. There was nothing improper with my financial disclosure statement either, as alleged. If there had been then I would be answering to the State Ethics Commission. I assure you I won’t be. Feel free to share this message with anyone else who questions my integrity.

Lance Richardson’s Fraudulent Fix

January 17th, 2013

Here’s some bad news. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention the average drunk driver in the United States drives drunk 80 times before first arrest.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the following is true: (1) Almost every 90 seconds, a person is injured in a drunk driving collision. (2) On average, one in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime. (3) In 2011, 9,878 people died in drunk driving crashes, which was one death every 53 minutes. (4) Thirty one percent of all traffic deaths are the result of a drunk driver.

Here’s some good news. Since the NHTSA began recording alcohol-related statistics in 1982, drunk driving fatalities have decreased 53% from 21,113 in 1982. The universally accepted reason given for this dramatic reduction, is the active enforcement of existing 0.08% blood alcohol laws.

On May 6, 2011 an affluent Queen Anne’s County citizen, Cal Gray, Jr., was arrested by Centreville police officers and charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, Driving While Impaired by Alcohol, Failure to Stop at a Stop Sign, and Negligent Driving.  His preliminary breath test at the scene resulted in a 0.25 reading, which is over three times the legal limit of 0.08.  The officers followed the letter of the law and there was every reason to believe the suspect would be convicted. (Click here to see the police report.)  However, the three police officers’ testimony was never required as our Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney, Lance Richardson, worked out a sweet deal for Mr. Gray.  After meeting with Gray’s attorney, Richardson made an arrangement to have the suspect simply pay the $140.00 fine for the negligent driving charge which he did on July 7, 2011.  Eight days later the DWI, DUI and stop sign charges vanished with the suspect never even having to show up in court.

Our State’s Attorney ended up with a sweet deal as well.  Months later Lance Richardson received four tickets from Mr. Gray to a Baltimore Ravens football game, purportedly club level seats, which Mr. Richardson thoroughly enjoyed with his family.  If they were indeed club level seats, each ticket would have had a face value of between $135-335. (My lower level seats have a face value of $110.00 each.)  A principled and honest prosecutor would have immediately refused Mr. Gray’s reward.

Ravens Tickets, Gray to Richardson

“Enjoying the Game” From Mrs. Richardson’s Facebook page

However, the Ravens tickets weren’t the only “donation” Lance Richardson received.   At the beginning of 2012 Mr. Gray and his son donated $250.00 each to Richardson’s re-election campaign. (Click here to see that report. Scroll down to page 4.)

But there’s still more to this narrative.  Lance Richardson, as a state elected official, is required by law to file a yearly Financial Disclosure Statement.  This report must be filed with the Maryland State Ethics Commission and include any and all gifts valued over $20.00.  Mr. Richardson filed his Disclosure Statement for 2011, but chose not to report  Mr. Gray’s gift of the Raven’s tickets. (Click here to see that report. Scroll down to page 4, Schedule D- Gifts.)

What I found most interesting in researching this matter were answers Lance Richardson has given under oath. He was asked if he authorized the stet docket for Mr. Gray’s charges to which he replied “I don’t know if I authorized it…. It was a case we could not prove.”

Really?  Richardson had not just one, but three police officers as witnesses for the case against Mr. Gray.  Upon reading the police report, it was clear that proper procedure was followed and that the drunk driving charges were strongly supported.  This was a case most prosecutors would have considered a slam dunk yet it’s my understanding that Richardson never even questioned the officers about their arrest.

Mr. Richardson was also asked under oath, “Did you report the gift?” to which he answered, “No sir”.   “Why not?” he was asked.  “The way the Ravens were playing, I didn’t know they had any value” was Richardson’s reply.

Lance Richardson admitted he broke the law when he said, “No sir”.  His sarcastic retort about the Raven’s play does not lessen that fact.  The Maryland Public Ethics Law states that the reason for the Financial Disclosure Statement is to provide “the public access to documents disclosing possible conflicts of interests” and “to assist voters in evaluating the suitability of candidates for the office they are seeking.”  Lance Richardson had at least two good reasons for not reporting his “fraudulent fix.”

Stay tuned.  There’s much more.

Sveinn C. Storm

Robert McGrory’s Drunk Driving Arrest Report

January 7th, 2013

I obtained the official arrest report of Robert McGrory, Centreville’s town manager (recently resigned), and you can read it for yourself.  Its content is quite sad, yet at the same time enlightening.  I don’t suggest leaving it on the screen for the kids to read.

Before being tempted to feel sorry  for McGrory, re-read the portion where he tells the officer that he knew he was drinking and should not have been driving.  This obviously shows that he knew he was breaking the law and chose to do so.

The second portion I would ask you to re-read is where he repeatedly points out to the officer that he is the Town Manager of Centreville and requests to know “if there is something he could do to get out of this.”   Clearly, McGrory felt that his position should somehow put him above the laws the rest of us must follow.

I ask you to remember these two points as I will elaborate on them soon in an upcoming story.  This is certainly not the only time Bob McGrory has knowingly broken the law or put himself above the laws he was required to follow related to his position as town manager.

But for now, click here to read the arrest report.

Click here to read another crime McGrory committed while intoxicated.

Click here to discover the redacted passenger’s name in the report.

Cheating Doctor Rice?

January 6th, 2013

Last April, Tim McClusky won re-election to the Centreville town council.  During his campaign he was asked by citizens at a meet and greet in Symphony Village about rumors of the Town Council’s plans to buy buildings near the town’s wharf.  They expressed concern about increasing Centreville’s already huge debt to achieve such a purchase.  Mr. McClusky reassured them that he had no knowledge of this possible purchase.  (See http://cta.centreville-md.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Document-55.pdf for the full report of this meeting at Symphony Village) This was a blatant falsehood, as just a month before, with his strong support, the Centreville Town Council had authorized a “contingency” contract to “explore” the purchase.

On June 20, 2012, the Centreville Town Council, under the direction of Bob McGrory, their town manager, purchased the buildings.  But the way the deal was done smelled horribly to those following the process.  You see, there was another buyer for the property.  Dr. Rice, wanted it for his growing veterinary practice.

In February of 2012 Dr. Rice took his staff to see the property.  In less than two hours of his visit, Bob McGrory showed up at his veterinary office demanding to speak ASAP with Dr. Rice.  When they spoke, McGrory instructed Rice that the Wharf property was not the appropriate location for his veterinary business and that his current location was where he should stay.  McGrory tried repeatedly to convince Rice that the property would not work out for him as the town had intentions of acquiring the property. Read the rest of this entry »

Another McGrory Indiscretion

January 4th, 2013

In spite of the fact that Bob McGrory, Centreville’s Town Manager resigned his position, it’s important for people to accurately understand behavior of which the Centreville Town Council was keenly aware.  With respect to the liability McGrory was and would continue to be to the town’s reputation, the council was extremely neglectful.  The ever increasing mound under the rug was noticeable to a growing number of the community and the council’s hands were on the broom.  Below is a statement from a young woman relating to just one example of Bob McGrory’s poor conduct.

About two years ago I experienced horrific behavior from Robert McGrory, Centreville’s Town Manager.  Three of my girlfriends and I had gone to Doc’s Riverside Grille to dance, have a drink and hang out with each other.  Our enjoyable evening took a horrible turn as one of my girlfriends and I were on the dance floor together.  We observed, along with a lot of other patrons, Mr. McGrory with his shirt unbuttoned, sweating profusely and dancing in a very outrageous manner.  We did our best to keep a safe distance from him and surmised that he must have been drinking heavily.  We were quite shocked at his unbecoming behavior given his  position as town manager. Read the rest of this entry »

Town Drunk or Town Manager?

January 2nd, 2013

INCIDENT: DWI Arrest
DATE / TIME: 01/01/2012 @ 0354 Hours
LOCATION: Calvary Court, Claiborne Fields, Centreville

ARREST: Robert Conrad McGrory (48) of Centreville
CHARGE: DWI

NARRATIVE: Deputies were in the area assisting MSP attempting to locate a subject. A 2007 Honda Civic was stopped for speeding (34/25) and driver identified as Robert McGrory by his MD license. A strong odor of alcohol was coming from the car and the driver stated they had been to a party. Driver was requested to attempt several field sobriety tasks and afterward was placed under arrest for DWI. Driver refused any breath test, was issued a temporary license and was released at the scene to the passenger .

Bob McGrory, the town manager of Centreville was arrested around 4:00 am New Year’s morning for driving drunk in his town issued vehicle .  Sharing the ride with him at that early hour was none other than Lori Peddicord, the Centreville town finance officer (bookkeeper).  A sheriff’s deputy apparently stopped McGrory while he was driving around the development of Claiborne Fields which happens to be Ms. Peddicord’s neighborhood.  Now I suppose I should be quick to state that Mr. McGrory is innocent until proven guilty and that he no doubt has a perfectly good reason for being out at that time with a woman other than his wife.

Read the rest of this entry »

John McQueeney and the Dimwits

October 1st, 2012

The other day I received a rather animated phone call from a resident here in the county.  He exclaimed, “You won’t believe this but  John McQueeney Jr. was appointed to the Queen Anne’s County liquor board.  What kind of a dimwit would do such a thing?”  I told him I was pretty sure who the dimwits were but that I would look into it.

After doing a little research I discovered that Mr. McQueeney actually had the audacity to apply for the position.   Apparently his good buds, County Commissioners Dave Olds and Steve Arentz, didn’t see the need to inform the other commissioners of their knowledge of John’s liquor related, unlawful past.  Consequently, McQueeney was approved for a position on the county’s liquor board. Read the rest of this entry »

An All Time Low

September 29th, 2012

   A recent Gallop Poll shows that Americans’ approval of congress has fallen to an all time low of ten percent.  Politicians’ disregard of citizens’ wishes has resulted in overwhelming dissatisfaction.  The unspoken declaration is that citizens are incapable of intelligent decision making.

   On September 20, 2012, the Centreville town council finally voted on the Gravel Run housing project.  In numerous previous council meetings the citizens of Centreville repeatedly voiced excellent rationale for opposing the project.  In one meeting faced with unanimous opposition to Gravel Run, Frank Ogens, council president, and Smokey Siegler, council vice-president, declared emphatically they were elected to represent the will of the citizens of Centreville and their impending votes would do just that. Read the rest of this entry »

Lacking Honor

September 26th, 2012

In Maryland, prior to officially taking office, an elected official swears an oath, which among other things, states that he or she will execute their office according to the Constitution and Laws of the State. As citizens we hope that this oath really means something to our representatives.

One of the first documents newly elected officials receive is a copy of the Maryland Open Meetings Act. This informs them of their legal obligations to conduct the business of the people in full view of the people. This is one of many things the law states: Read the rest of this entry »