Saturday, September 02, 2006

Laurel Boys and Girls Club

By now I'm sure you have read about the LBGC and McCullough Field issues in the Laurel Leader. I was serving on the City Council when the land transfer took place and I can assure you that there was never any intent to transfer the field to the Club.

The City's role in the transfer of the old Laurel High School and Phelps Center property was minor. The city had the right of first refusal on that property. We negotiated using our refusal to allow the Club to obtain the property in return for continuing the lease on the Phelps Center until a new Senior Center could be built. The field was not part of the deal.

Setting aside the invalid McCullough property transfer, I felt then and continue to believe now that the old Laurel High School property was a bad strategy for the Club. The burden of owning an old historic building, with millions of dollars worth of needed repairs would ultimately drown the club financially and most importantly, divert the attention of the volunteers from their core role of providing youth sports programs.

I was subsequently appointed to an advisory committee serving the LBGC board of directors and after a number of meetings and digging into the finances, I sustained my original opinion. I believed then that without significant yearly government grants, the club could not both restore the building to code and also provide quality core sports programs. Living off of grants was simply too risky a bet to build a credible strategy for the future.

Now we are engaged in a debate about county grants for the Club. The LBGC leadership feels that County Councilman Dernoga unfairly denied them their funds. I've included Tom Dernoga's letter explaining this issue below.

I am also concerned that some members associated with the club may be unknowingly jepoardizing the LBGC's tax exempt status by engaging in political activity. The IRS rules are very clear. There are also clear rules severely limiting political activity by organizations receiving state or federal grants.

I encourage all sides to use the comments section of Connections to raise issues and ask questions.



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August 29, 2006
Re: Laurel Boys & Girls Club Funding

Dear Community Member:

As I promised, I am writing in response to many inquiries about whether I reallocated $200,000 of funds that had been promised to the Laurel Boys & Girls Club (LBGC). Actually, in FY 2006, I did provide the $200,000 that I had promised to the Club for renovations. I have been one of LBGC’s biggest benefactors the past five years. However, it is true that I did not seek to fight to keep an additional $200,000 proposed for LBGC for FY 2007 (known as Year P32 for Community Development Block Grant (“CDBG”) purposes).

There are numerous reasons for my decision not to use my influence to seek these additional funds at this time. These reasons include:

· Payments for Property Taxes.
· Internal disputes.
· Lack of a Certified Audit.
· Payments for Attorneys Fees.
· Substantial Out of County participation.
· Disputes with the City of Laurel.

Contrary to what has been stated, I informed Levet Brown of this result when I met with him and Patrick Reed on July 12th. I did leave open possibility of seeking additional funds next year. I explained to Mr. Brown and Mr. Reed why I was unwilling to support additional funding to LBGC at this time and what LBGC would need to do to obtain additional funding. I am concerned that in his recent emails to the public, Mr. Brown claims to have just learned last week about the funding for FY 2007 and to have no knowledge of my rationale; and that therefore, members should contact me to urge me to explain the situation. In doing so, Mr. Brown is making me, and other officials, publicly address matters that may not reflect well on the LBGC. I regret that.

While not the sole reason, a significant reason is that I decided not to pursue additional funds for this fiscal year is that I have concerns about the leadership of the LBGC and the actions that I have observed over the past 15 months. I have a fiduciary obligation to the County taxpayers, and I take this obligation very seriously. I also have expectations about principles, and the LBGC leadership and I have different views. I will discuss this below.


Background

First, LBGC has not been a major recipient of County funding until recently. It has largely been self-sufficient, but in the past couple of years, there have been several claims of financial crisis and requests for stop-gap funding. Here is a breakdown of funding since 1996:

Prior To Taking Office Since Taking Office

Fiscal Year Amount Fiscal Year Amount
FY 1996 $ 0 FY 2003 $ 13,500*
FY 1997 $ 0 FY 2004 $ 12,500
FY 1998 $ 0 FY 2005 $ 15,500*
FY 1999 $ 10,250 FY 2006 $256,000*
FY 2000 $ 0
FY 2001 $ 10,000
FY 2002 $ 10,000

*County Executive Jack Johnson provided grants of $1,000 in FY 2003, $3,000 in FY 2005, and $1,000 in FY 2006.

The above Table only shows a fraction of the resources that I have provided to LBGC or that I am in the process of obtaining. Additional Recreational Benefits that I am working to provide to LBGC and area youth in general are listed on Attachment 1.[1] Also, Attachment 2 provides information on the many projects that I have worked on or have budgeted to address the needs of our public schools. If you have a children in our public schools, please ask your principal if I have been of assistance.

The community has been told that I “reallocated $200,000” that had been promised to LBGC. The community is not being told all that I have already done.

Being a substantial supporter of LBGC, after meeting with Mr. Brown and other Board members during 2004, I offered to find substantial funding for capital improvements to the High School building. During FY 2005, I negotiated with my Council colleagues to obtain a substantial CDBG grant for LBGC for the following fiscal year, FY 2006. I had my staff assist with the application process and walk LBGC through the process. I kept my word, as did my colleagues, and LBGC received a $200,000 CDBG Grant in FY 2006. To date, LBGC has only used about $100,000 of the funds. I also obtained a second CDBG Grant in the amount of $25,000 to assist with program costs. I also obtained $30,000 and inserted it in the Park & Planning Commission FY 2006 budget. Apparently, the community has not been informed that I went to bat for LBGC in FY 2006 and obtained unprecedented funding.

With respect to FY 2007 (i.e., Year P32), the truth is that during this year’s Council budget negotiations, while I obtained substantial funding for many projects in this area – many needed projects – I did not go to bat for this additional funding. In part, I had already pushed the limit the year before and other Council members wanted their share of the funding.[2] Ultimately, this $200,000 went to two organizations in Councilman Sam Dean’s district that provide services to the poor and disadvantaged (the Mission of Love Charities[3] and Sparrow’s Nest Ministries). I supported Councilman Dean on a number of funding initiatives, and he supported important projects in my district, including $290,000 for 1st Generation College Bound in Laurel and $200,000 for a community health clinic in Beltsville; $500,000 for the clean-up of Laurel Lakes; $3,000,000 for the gym on the Laurel-Beltsville Elementary School;

While a significant reason for not pushing this issue is that the Council has a “share the pie” approach and I had gotten the District 1 share in FY 2006, I also have concerns about the LBGC leadership. I have been watching the actions and attitude of the leadership for the past 15 months and I am troubled by a number of things. While I know that the LBGC leadership has the interests of youth at heart, and has worked hard for youth, that does not mean that concerns should be overlooked.

Concerns

Transfer of Old Laurel High School & Phelps Senior Center to LBGC: In 2002, the County, the City and LBGC engaged in negotiations to turn ownership of the Old Laurel High School and the Phelps Senior Center over to LBGC. The LBGC leadership of 2002 knew that this would be a tremendous responsibility and require significant fundraising on its part. I supported this transfer of the building and offered future help in fundraising. As part of this transfer, the parties agreed that the Senior Citizen programs run by the City of Laurel would remain in place until a new Senior Citizens Center was constructed. That project is about 2 years from completion.

At no time did anyone intend to transfer McCullough Field to LBGC and LBGC had no expectation of receiving the Field. The County has a long-term lease with the City of Laurel for McCullough Field so that the City may provide for its recreational programs. It shares the field with LBGC. A renewal of the lease arises in 2007.

During the Council review of the transfer approval, I noted that the acreage listed (11 acres) seemed too large for the High School site. I was assured by County Staff that the acreage figure was correct. LBGC has recently discovered that an error was made in the deed transfer of the High School building. The original deed actually includes the parcel for the High School and, in a separate provision, includes McCullough Field. Whoever drafted the transfer documents did not separate the two parcels at the time of transfer. LBGC is now taking the position that it owns McCullough Field. Belying the fact that no one had any intent to transfer the Field, LBGC had never asserted ownership until it stumbled over the error recently.

More about this issue is discussed below.

Payments for Property Taxes: When LBGC obtained ownership of the High School property, LBGC did not conform its activities to comply with Maryland real property tax laws. By renting the facility to outside users, the property became subject to State, County and City real property taxes. This taxation is controlled by State law. In my view, LBGC leadership mishandled this problem and did not seek appropriate advice. When it was brought to my attention, it was too late address the property tax issue for the tax year. Consequently, LBGC lost over $15,000 in tax payments.

My first concern is that due to its desire to conduct business in a manner that creates a taxable situation, my grant of $12,500 did nothing more than offset taxes. I was able to work with LBGC to get a County tax credit for the following years. Nevertheless, LBGC paid over $8,500 in property taxes for FY 2006, but not before the property went to tax sale (costing over $500 in penalties and interest). LBGC owes over $8,000 in property taxes for FY 2007. These taxes are unpaid at this time.

All or part of these taxes is owed to the City of Laurel. This tax situation should be worked out between the two parties, but because of disputes between the parties, there has been no resolution to date. I am unwilling to provide County dollars to fund property tax bills.

Internal disputes: I and other elected officials have been notified of a number of internal disputes that reflect poorly on the working of LBGC. It’s difficult to draw conclusions from complaints, because it is not our role to investigate and take sides on internal disputes. Nonetheless, repeated complaints raise flags about the inability of a group to work collaboratively. I saw a petition from one group of parents last summer demanding the resignation of the Board of Directors and the holding of elections. Apparently, the Board dismissed the complaint and did not hold elections. One repeated complaint that I have heard from various quarters is that dissent is quashed on the Board and that only hand-picked persons are appointed.

Later, the boxing program was ejected from the Club. This resulted in a lawsuit last fall, in part demanding elections since none had been held for about five years. Eventually, the lawsuit was withdrawn and the complainant moved to another club. Elections were finally held earlier this year; however, it is my understanding that only the Directors in office ran for election. This raises a flag as to how open and inclusive the election process was.

These internal disputes were not determinative in my view about LBGC leadership; however, they have created a concern.

Lack of a Certified Audit: LBGC’s accounting controls apparently are so poor that its accountant is refusing to certify its audit. This information comes from County auditors who have reviewed LBGC’s books. This does not mean that there is any impropriety. It does mean that there is a lack of comfort about LBGC’s accounting systems. The current leadership inherited this state of affairs and has promised to take steps to rectify it. Once this is corrected, I will feel more comfortable about the handling of funds.

Another concern raised by the review of LBGC finances is that one individual associated with LBGC has received over $40,000 in contracts to provide renovation related services. Perhaps these are low-cost services that save LBGC funds; however, former Board members raised questions about whether the individual was properly certified or licensed and whether improvements met code requirements.

Payments for Attorneys Fees: The litigation that occurred this year generated attorney’s fees. I believe that the legal services were provided at a reduced rate; however, I have concern that County taxpayer funds may be going to lawyers rather than children because adults cannot work together. As the disputes with the City of Laurel move forward, I am concerned that the LBGC will again be expending funds on attorneys to settle a dispute and I do not want tax dollars subsidizing such activities.

Out of County participation: While not a major issue, this is still a concern. LBGC is focused on being a regional Boys & Girls Club, and is not limiting itself to the City of Laurel or Prince George’s County.[4] There is nothing wrong with this. However, I have heard a number of complaints about City/County residents not getting opportunities because of commitments to outside groups. And, as the use of Club facilities and resources expands to serve residents of wealthier Counties, I have concern about increasing demands for funding support from Prince George’s County and the City of Laurel. I am unaware of funding being provided by other Counties. I am unaware of any requests for funding having been presented to other Counties.

Recently, LBGC issued a postcard for members to send to the Mayor and City Council demanding funding support from the City. A significant portion of LBGC members reside outside the City of Laurel. I think it is inappropriate for the LBGC Board to stir up ill-feelings toward the City among its members considering the numerous benefits that the City provides to LBGC, and considering that none of these other Counties provide any support. I am unaware that field or gym space is even provided to LBGC by these other jurisdictions.

Disputes with the City of Laurel: The foregoing issues are concerns, but the principal reason for my decision not to push for CDBG grant funding this year relates to disputes with the City of Laurel. At my meeting with Mr. Brown and Mr. Reed on July 12th, I specifically instructed them to resolve their disputes with the City and then I would meet with them to discuss funding options. There has a brief meeting or two with City officials, but I perceive almost no movement. The disputes are as follows:

Increased Rent for the Phelps Senior Center. The City has provided a complete senior program at Phelps for many years. When the County owned the building, it provided space to the City at no cost. In part through my efforts, MNCPPC provides over $120,000 per year to the City to pay for the program. As noted above, when the building was transferred to LBGC, the agreement was for the City’s senior program to stay in place until the Senior Citizens Center is complete. The City and LBGC entered into a lease arrangement.

To address its funding problems, LBGC has looked at market rate lease costs in the area, and is demanding that the City’s rent more than quadruple. In my view, the new LBGC leadership is reneging on the commitments of its predecessors. The state of the City senior programs is in jeopardy and senior leaders are very upset with this action. Not only do I understand LBGC’s concern about funding, but I have been working to find financing for LBGC. My efforts last year are obvious. I have also been working on fundraising efforts and making progress. I am disappointed that rather than a collaborative approach with elected officials, the LBGC leadership has taken a confrontational approach with the City.

The irony of this effort is that since I provide the funding for the City senior program through MNCPPC, while LBGC is negotiating with the City about fair rental value, in part, I will be expected to find the funds to increase support of the senior program in order to pay more rent to LBGC. In that respect, LBGC’s dispute is not with the City itself, but with me, one of its leading financial supporters. I found it difficult to financially support LBGC this year when (1) it is taking a confrontational approach with the City and threatening the viability of the senior program; and (2) when I do not know how much additional funding I will have to provide to pay the additional rent – in essence, additional funding through my efforts to LBGC. This second concern is compounded by consideration of the amount of resources that are allocated to out-of-County members or participants.

McCullough Field. This dispute is the most troubling matter affecting my decisions. As noted above, LBGC recently stumbled across an error in the deed transferring ownership of the High School property to it, and it now claims ownership of McCullough field. Mr. Brown has stated a number of things that I find very troubling. For example:

“The club at this time agreeing to allow the City of Laurel to conduct its programs on this field as long as the Laurel Boys and Girls Club’s programs don’t suffer because the City of Laurel’s usage. However, the club will revisit this issue at a later date in the year 2007.” The lease between the County and City for the use of the Field allows for review in 2007.

“Furthermore, the club feels that from the conversation [Mr. Reed] and I had with you in the meeting in July, you will not be satisfied until we give your constituent’s children field over to the City. You made this very clear to [Mr. Reed] and me. . . . I want to remind you as I stated in our meeting, that I will never be a part of giving these children’s field over to anyone.”

I was an integral participant in the negotiations to transfer the High School building to LBGC for no cost. No one involved in that transaction had an intent to transfer McCullough Field. The City actually has first right of refusal on surplus County property and it waived its right to the benefit of LBGC, but only for the building. The City would have exercised its right with respect to McCullough Field had there been any intent to surplus the land.

I told Mr. Brown and Mr. Reed very clearly that my support for their leadership (or anyone’s) is based on how they conduct themselves. I noted that the lawyers’ error in not separating the two parcels in the deed transfer might stand up in court, and that LBGC may find itself with an unintended windfall. I said that knowing that the Field was never intended to be transferred to LBGC and that such transfer would cause great harm to the City of Laurel, I would look to their actions to determine their character. I used the following analogy:

“A person is walking down the street and drops $100 on the ground. You are walking behind and see this. You pick up the $100 and you have a choice. There is no name on money, so you can put it in your pocket. Or, you can give it back to the person. However, I am walking behind both of you and I see you pick up the $100. What do you think I will say if you put the $100 in your pocket, and then turn and ask me to give you money?”

I believe that the manner in which LBGC handles this issue is a matter of honor and principle. LBGC still has a choice to make, although to date it is giving all indication that it will assert its legal ownership of the land and put the City’s recreational programs in jeopardy. I am disappointed by Mr. Brown’s attempt to hide behind my “constituent’s children field”. The Field belongs to the County and is leased to the City for the City to provide recreational activities to my constituents – including many children. The City does a great job in providing such activities.

Another great irony is that LBGC is taking this action unnecessarily. Review the attached list of projects that I am working on, some intended to specifically benefit LBGC in terms of providing additional facilities.

Based on what I know to date, I am concerned that this dispute will result in more litigation. I will not provide tax dollars to LBGC only to see these funds again go to pay for attorneys.

As noted above, I told Mr. Brown and Mr. Reed on July 12th where I stood on their disputes with the City and that their choices would affect my view of the principles of the LBGC leadership. I told them to resolve their differences and then I would meet. Neither dispute has been resolved.

Apparently frustrated by my position, last week Mr. Brown claimed to have just learned that LBGC did not receive approval for the FY 2007 CDBG grant. Mr. Brown has issued various emails to members stating, without explanation, nothing more than that I have “reallocated $200,000” that had been promised, and asking the members to contact me to get an explanation from me. This message to members had the intended affect on members. I have received about 30 emails demanding an explanation and demanding funding now. Some of these emails were from out-of-county users of the LBGC facilities demanding that I give County funds for their benefit. Some of the emails have been very nasty. I have a thick enough skin to take the slings and arrows. However, it is not lost on me that one of the complaints by former Club members is that Mr. Brown attacks those who disagree with him and seeks to isolate them. It is also not lost on me that a similar tactic is being used against the Mayor and City Council. Attempting to apply public pressure on elected officials is a strategy, but if the elected officials fear that the pressure is created by unfair information, the strategy may be counter-productive.

One point that LBGC has failed to mention in its statements is that I directed LBGC to the CDBG grant program, walked it through the application process, paved the way for approval and secured $225,000 in CDBG funds in FY 2006. Without my assistance, LBGC would not even be aware of the CDBG program. LBGC’s emails are misleading people into thinking that the decision on the CDBG grants is very recent and can be reconsidered. That is not the case. The CDBG program for FY 2007 was approved by the County Council on June 20th, and signed by the County Executive on June 29th. The County Executive never spoke to me about having promised a grant to LBGC; therefore, I think Mr. Brown’s claims about this are overstated.

LBGC may file an application this Fall for next year’s program; however, I believe that the leadership needs to do a self-assessment. Club members may want to discuss the recent actions and strategies with the Club leadership. I look forward to a collaborative relationship with LBGC pursuant to which I can continue to seek to secure funds to support programs for youth. However, I do not want to fund attorneys’ fees, property taxes, and residents of other Counties that do not also contribute to the costs. Nor do I want to fund an organization that has leadership lacking honor.

People may disagree with me on this matter, but I am willing to accept that. I was elected to be a fiduciary and I believe that I have done a good job over the past five years as a fiduciary. I also have obtained tens of millions of dollars to benefit the youth in my District. I have been one of LBGC’s strongest supporters. People can ask what has happened to my support. Or, they can ask whether the present LBGC leadership has its priorities straight. Even if people disagree with my assessment of this situation, I know that I have looked at the matter objectively and made the best decision that I am able. I have taken a position that might be politically unpopular, but that is not a basis for making decisions. I will not be cowed by arguments of “do it for the children.” I have heard those arguments from people such as Dr. Andre’ Hornsby, and I often find that such arguments are a mask to hide substantive issues.

Again, I regret that Mr. Brown has demanded that I publicly address his questions. I think that these discussions with would have better served our youth, the City and our County by being conducted outside the media. However, if explanations of my actions are demanded – if my motivations are impugned – I have no problem explaining the bases of my decisions. I am sure that this issue will continue to be discussed in the future. I assure you that I will act in what I consider to be the best interests of County residents, including our youth. I am confident that we will get past the present set of issues and that LBGC will continue to provide recreational services to our youth.


Sincerely,

Thomas E. Dernoga, Chair

notes
1. Contrary to what some people believe, I am no stranger to LBGC. I was a parent member and served as a soccer coach for years.
2. Typically, the County receives funding requests approximately double the amount of available CDBG funding.
3. Mission of Love Charities, Inc. is a multifaceted health and human services organization dedicated to helping the underserved and misfortunate by providing free programs and services designed to meet their immediate and short-term needs.
4. In a recent letter, Mr. Brown states that “It is the club’s hope that you continue to support the Laurel Boys and Girls Club in its important endeavor, and that is providing a service to the community of Prince George’s, Howard, Anne Arundel and Montgomery County.”

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

My opinion on this subject is set out below, which is a copy of the message I sent out on the OldTown Laurel listserve on Friday, Sept.1, 2006.

All,
Let me know if you were as outraged as I was about the Laurel Boys and Girls Club issue as set out yesterday in the two local weeklies. Just so you know, my opinion is that the executive officers at the club are setting a bad example for the kids in not returning McCoullough Field to the county/city since it was transferred to the club by mistake. Until the club is willing to do that, I think the City should refused to deal with them on the Phelps Center Lease and any other matters. To do otherwise would be to sanction this type of morally and ethically wrong behavior. County Councilman Tom Dernoga has accurately summed up the Club's approach and has taken definitive action in response. I applaud him for taking a stand. I know that City officials have been working with the Club to resolve some of these issues. But, I think a stronger approach is warranted in light of the actions of the Club. By the way, the Club is also presently orchestrating a postcard campaign urging the City to allocate more money for the Club's operating budget, to waive its tax liability and to make the Club a regular, recurring line item in the City's annual budget. Wow, talk about chutzpa! I'd love to hear from others about this.
Mike Walls
240-216-4999

Anonymous said...

Mike, well stated!

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Tom Dernoga for taking the time to set the record straight with his lengthy response, which in classic T.E.D. style is thorough, detailed, straight forward and on target. And, as easy-going as Tom is, I could almost sense him simmering between the lines as he crafted his reply with utmost professionalism. Makes me proud to feel so good about a public official.

The myopic "leadership" of the LBGC has no idea what they've gotten themselves into. Hopefully, their tenure there will be short-lived. The club deserves better.

Mike McLaughlin

Anonymous said...

So Tom & the PG Gov. gives away the field to the LBGC and he's a hero? Am I missing something?

Tom Dernoga said...

Anon:

Good question. Good point.

(1) I'm no hero. Very simple.

(2) I think there is only one person/set of persons to "blame" for the original error - if that is what we're looking for. Any error started with a staff atty in the County Office of Law. That was four years ago under the Curry Administration. I presently have no idea who that is, but I am rather curious.

I don't think blaming someone for what is a fairly small mistake (but with collossal consequences) is productive. I know that Mayor Moe feels terrible about the situation and seems disappointed with himself and the City attorney for failing to "catch" this error. There is no way that Mayor Moe has any responsiblity for this. I feel no responsibility for the error. I know that I questioned the acreage in question for the School Building and was assured that it was correct.

Further, when I was first elected around that time, County staff urged me to suppress my inclinations to play lawyer in general and to leave the legal work to County staff attorneys - the ones paid to do that job. I have done my best to comply and focus on my policy-making and oversight roles - with advice and assistance of staff.

In this particular case, there were a couple of complicating facts.

First, at that time, the County Council was not provided with maps of the surplus property in question. We just got general descriptions. We certainly are not given deeds to read - the transfer papers are handled by the attorneys for the County and the recipient - as it should be. The Council's role is to approve the act of transfer. Since 2003, however, we have asked for property maps so that we have no question which properties are on the table for surplus status.

This transaction was handled by County attorneys and Andre' Gingles on behalf of the Club. I doubt that the City ever saw the transfer deed because there would have been no reason for it to be involved once it waived its right of refusal to the building property. Once the Council approved the act of transfer, we never saw the transfer documents - that is handled by the Administration and its lawyers.

Second, I question how many people had any idea that McCullough Field was (1) owned by the County, and (2) in the same deed as the School building. I know I had no idea that the County even owned McCullough Field. To me, and I think to many people who are concerned with this matter, the Field has been "the City's Field" since time out of mind. I did not learn of County ownership until earlier this year when the error arose. I think many City officials had the same misconception. Consequently, I think it's likely that the County staff attorney who handled the transaction assumed that the two parcels were adjacent pieces of property that comprise the School building property.

To me, this is a simple mistake with a simple resolution - a corrective deed that separates the properties as should have occurred originally.

A similar thing happened with me in a Bowie property litigation about 10 years ago. There were two adjacent properties that had become separated by Route 197 and were still in the same deed. To settle some litigation, my clients agreed to buy the main property from the banks that owned the two properties. The banks' attorneys messed up and transferred both properties to my clients. Oops. The banks came to me shortly thereafter and admitted their error and asked me to get my clients to sign a revisory deed to correct the error. My clients chuckled about it, thought of how difficult they could make things if they were of that mind, but naturally agreed to sign the revisory deed because they had never bargained (nor paid) for the other property.

I hope people see this problem with the simplicity of Mike Walls and Jim McCeney. An error was made - fix it. In spite of my long-winded explanation of why I did not go to bat for a CDBG grant, the Field issue is just simple.

I still trust that the Field will find its way back under undisputed City control in fairly short order.

Tom Dernoga

Anonymous said...

Anon:

The short answer to your question “Am I missing something?” is, yes.

Mike McLaughlin

Anonymous said...

Tom, I applaud the detail and time you have taken to send the reply about this very upsetting issue. The unfortunate thing about this whole issue is that it is affecting and consuming the time of many more people than the children on saturday morning for soccer games(or what ever the sport of the season is).
I also appreciate your insite into the LBGC internal problem. It clears my confusion with the club. I am a local business owner who has in the past sponsored teams. I sponsored my first team while Murray Millers was Executive Director. We received only a thank you letter for sponsorship. I thought sponsors of teams got pictures to display as a thank you for their sponsorship. Just look at the wall inside Red HOT and Blue. And the next season we got a recruiting letter and a sponsorship form. By this time I had a child old enough to play. We send in our sponsorship and on the form we request that our child wears the sponsors shirt. Our coach contacts us we show up and practice a few times. The practice before the first game we get the team shirt and it is not our company name. We call LBGC. They tell us the only thing we can do is change our child to the other team. Fortunately, our child is 4 and doesn't realize we switched his team. At the end of the season we talked to the coach and he said he was willing to coach. So we request that his child and ours wear the sponsorship shirt. I call him before the season begins to remind him to look for our company shirt when they choose them. This season I decide to buy my own team plaque from the picture vendor so I can display it in my business. You would think that for a $300 sponsorship and $75.00 child registration fee that we could get a picture of the team we sponsored. It could even be in a cheap dollar store frame with a thank you letter. This is why they are in need of funds. My next season we go to register. I no longer have any sponsorship forms because they stopped sending them to us. ( go figure)( spend 37 cents to get $300) So I am asked by the commission of that sport as I am registering what would I like to volunteer to do for the team. I say" quite honestly we have sponsored teams in the past, but we no longer have any forms since you have not sent us one so I guess your sponsorship slots must be full!" The man says "OH ! No! I will mail you the form. I promise." I fill in corporate sponsor line on the my sons form. Then he proceeds to tell me about the family participation of 25.00. (which will be returned after we do our volunteer job) I write him
my check knowing full well I will never see that $25.00. ( how will they be organized enough to send me a check when they can't send me a sponsorship form?) The form never comes in the mail. I don't think any thing of it. My child coach passes out the shirts. Surprise Surprise, It is another companies name. I decide to say nothing since I sent them no money.
About 4 weeks in to the season, a friend tells me his kid played my team and how nice it is that I sponsored a team. I am shocked because I did not know that happened since I was never sent a form and I never paid them any money. So I got a free season of advertising out of the deal.
So now I read in the paper that Murray Miller is back. So I decide to go pay him a visit. I tell him my saga. He says that it funny you should come see me today,because I am going through all of our previous sponsors and sending letters. We talk for a little bit and I tell him I look forward to his letter. The letter does arrive and we sponsor a team once again. Then I find out after a few letters to the laurel leader that he is fired and gone! They do appear to have some serious turmoil. It is a shame that I have to feel that I can't comfortably support our LBGC.

John Steinecke said...

I think Tom Dernoga and Mike Walls got to the essence of the matter by pointing out that there is an easy ethical choice here for LBGC. No one has asserted that the county intended to transfer the field to LBGC. LBGC's attempt to use the field as a cudgle to whack the City says something about the leadership's ethics.

The right thing for LBGC to do is to abandon their claim to the field. In addition, they should stand by their committments regarding the Senior's facility and then learn to work with the community instead of against it. If their committment is really to children, they have a teaching opportunity here: you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

Those who insist on assigning blame in the matter are merely muddying the waters.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to read that Mr. Dernoga is holding the LBGC accountable. My kids no longer use that club, we go to Savage. The field should go to the City and not the club, they have no money as it is.
A former LBGC member.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record - under City Briefs in the Laurel Leader, it states that the LBGC Club President credited City Council member Michael Sarich with moving them toward negotiations with the city. This is an untrue statement. Mayor Moe and City Attorney Bob Manzi along with City Council President Fred Smalls were in negotiations. Councilman Sarich can't take the credit for this one, nor should he try!

Anonymous said...

I don’t know or care who gets the credit or the blame for the city talking with the LBGC officials. What I care about is calling these talks “negotiations.” I have big trouble with the LBGC folks wanting to manipulate an honest mistake into a position of negotiating. Since when do you have to “negotiate” to do the right thing?

Here’s how I think any “negotiation” between the city and LBGC should go:

City: “By now, we’re all aware that a mistake was made, an honest mistake, and that there was never any intent to transfer ownership of McCollough Field along with the building you received from the county for $1.”

LBGC: “Well, OK.”

City: “All that is needed is a revised deed showing the correct acreage for the building, and we can exercise our first right of refusal on the field. It will become city property, as most Laurel residents believe it to be, and benefit the community that uses it the most.”

LBGC: “Not what we had in mind, but, OK.”

City: “And regarding the lease arrangement for the Senior Center, you need to get more creative with your fund raising. Sell some cookies, wash some cars, but leave the seniors alone. Are you a boys and girls club, or a property management company?

LBGC: “We’re not really sure.”

City: “Well, when you are, don’t forget to let the IRS know. Until then, you’ve got the building, but McCollough Field belongs to the people of Laurel, right?”

LBGC: “Oh, OK.”

Consider this a teachable moment, Mr. Brown and Mr, Reed. Make the kids proud, and do the right thing.

Mike McLaughlin

Anonymous said...

Mike S.

I followed your "ranting" dialog with ANON in the sign posting issue on the "sale of the century, the Maryland elecrtrical deregulation legislation" and the resulting escalaltion of current energy costs to Marylanders until you "opted out". In that dialog, you failed to answer several direct questions from ANON including who voted for electrical deregulation. Voters finally have the answer to one of those questions courtesy of Delegate Menes. Your running mate voted for electrical deregulation and enabled the sale of the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant for a pittance. On the other hand, your incumbant opponents voted against deregulation. Deregulation was a bad deal for Marylanders and because Marylanders no longer control the market price of the Calvert Cliffs electrical power, it adds considerably to the 72% increase that Marylanders are facing. Your running mate was a pivotal vote in that "fire sale" legislation. And now your slate want to fix it? Perhaps the same way that you want to fix the McCollough Field mistake?

Enough said about your previous lack of responsiveness.

Why are you negotiating with the LBGC on the athletic field issue. It was a mistake never ment to happen. After receiving an email string recently, I have to believe that you and your slate have cut your own deal with the LBGC in exchange for support at the polls. I refer other readers to the email that is making the rouunds that went out from the LBGC and another "new" organization, the Friends of the LBGC, asking that athlete children and adults support the Mike S. slate by working the polls! Mike S., shame on you.

Mike S., see you at the next Emancipation Day Celebration in Laurel. I've made all of them held since 1985, and I believe I may have seen you at one, if any.

Councilman Mike Sarich said...

MIKE SARICH RESPONDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Right. I've made it clear, when a "poster" posts thier name, I will respond to them. Everyone knows that Frush/Moe voted to keep $500 out of the wallets of working Marylanders. In fact, I've given you proof.

As for who gets credit with the LBGC, who cares? If the newspaper wants to mention my work with the LBGC, that's up to them. It's simply out of my control.

For the record, Craig Moe is a good man whose Administration goofed. As Rick said, he feels terrible about it. At the end of the day it's just as much all of our faults as it is the County's. What matters is that your elected officials are working to take care of it. These people include Craig Moe and Fred Smalls who are working like crazy to help bring a resolution to this crisis.

As for the LBGC, it simple. When the dust settles, here are the intended results; a field that is in the control of the City forever, not subject to County takeover every ten years. I'm working to ensure that the field is used for the children of Laurel forever.

Criticize if you want to and hide if you choose; however, I think TR's guidance is relevant here. I'd much prefer to be a "Doer of deeds" than a pot-shot taking anonymous poster.

As for my attendance at the Emancipation Day celebration, you are simply a liar. There is no other name for you.

Further, why Rick Wilson would allow such a slanderous posting like that to linger on his site is quite simply a mystery. His site is above your charges, especially since he personally knows them to be without merit. (As my ample waistline will attest, I wouldn't miss the fried okra at the Emancipation Day Celebration for all the tea in China!)

Please don't forget to vote for me on the 12th! You'll be in good comapny.

Anonymous said...

Mike S.

Slanderous?

Mike, do you deny the statement in the recent Pauline Menes e-mail that made the rounds that clarified who did vote for electrical deregulation on your slate, and who did not support deregulation on the other slate that resulted in the sale of the Calvert Cliffs electrical generating plant and thus Marylanders lost control of the cheap power that it generates? That deregulation legislation that your slate's incumbant voted for is a substantial part of cause for the 72% electrical rate increases that Marylanders now face. After the fact, the incumbant that voted for the deregulation legistlation wants to provide a band-aid that will not decrease the ultimate rate increase to Marylanders, only delay it. Oh, and Marylanders get to finance the delay. Do your homework Mike, and report all the facts, not just your side. Perhaps to clarify the issue, Rick W. can post the Pauline Menes e-mail to this posting string. Let the voters make their own decision about who tells the truth.

Slanderous?

What I previously commented regarding the LBGC was based on the the observations made by Mike W. and Tom D. I do not believe that they have not told the truth. I'll ask again, why are you negotiating with the LBGC on the athletic field issue? It was a mistake never ment to happen. There is a simple moral and ethical solution to this mistake -- give it back! Whay haven't you stated in public that the LBGC should give it back?

Slanderous?

Do you deny the existence of the e-mail string that made the rounds that went out from officals of the LBGC and another recent "new" organization, the Friends of the LBGC, asking that LBGC athlete children and adults support the Mike S. slate by handing out literature for you and working the polls for you and your slate's incumbant? Were those LBGC children handing out your literature throughout Laurel on Saturday morning? Again, perhaps to clarify this issue, Rick W. can post the LBGC and Friends of LBGC e-mail string to this posting string. Let the voters make their own decision about who tells the truth.

Slanderous?

Finally Mike, I've been sitting on the street applauding the Laurel Emancipation Day parade every time it has been held since 1985. I'll repeat, I may have seen you once. I will admit, I have not been on the City Park field all day and night for the Emancipation Day celebration, so you may have been there to chow down and I missed you.

Slanderous?

As far as who I will be voting for on the 12th, I will be in good company, not your "comapny".

Anonymous said...

Mike S.

As I previously stated, I'll be in good company today!

The Diamnondback view: "Joseline Peña-Melnyk," xxxx xxxxxx "and Ben Barnes are the most likely candidates to further the interests of the district and university."

Of course, if one is to believe what is implied on your website Mike, only you xxxx xxxxxx received their endorsement.

Marylanders, see you at the polls!

Anonymous said...

Marylanders!
I took one last look at the Mike S. site expecting a gracious closure to a contentious campaign, and found the following. Mike says very little regarding his opponents, only John’s. Since I am posting this on the Rick W. site, and I am able to comment, my comments are inserted ***{ }***.

Thursday, September 14, 2006 at 12:28 AM EDT
Talk about an emotionally draining/uplifting day! As you all know by now, I'm still a Laurel City Councilman. Election Day was obviously filled with passion and energy on all sides. I'll give you a rundown on the highlights of the day.
Monday night was spent at HQ getting signs together; I actually went around with Matt Stern (a great Giannetti staffer) to 12 of our polling places and erected our large team signs. I ran into Jamie Benoit (another member of the B-Team

***{Mike, Maryland voters have spoken and nominated their Winning A–Team for the upcoming General Election in November, and it did not include you.}***

and winner of the primary in AA county) around 4:00 am placing signs up at the Piney Orchard Community Center. He seemed confident (correctly as it turns out) and we talked about the negative nature of the Senate race. Matt and I stopped putting up signs around 6:30 and then reported for a day of poll working.
At 7:00 I started out visiting a few local polls in and around Laurel. I knew the B-Team

***{The Winning A-Team Mike.}***

was looking strong when I saw how many people they had out at the polls at 7:00. After voting, I went over to the Phelps Center to pass out lit and stump for votes. One of the funny things of the day occurred when I got a call telling me that the Post was listing me as an incumbent. As it turns out, on the Voters Guide had me listed incorrectly; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/metro/elections/2006/maryland/candidates/Michael_B_Sarich.html .
As the day progressed, the usual debate went back and forth about issues and candidates among the poll workers. Poll workers can become bored, and since they are the most passionate about their Candidates are usually good debaters. The difference this election was that no one had anything to say about Jim's issues, just that John was a bad man.

***{Mike, not what I observed working at the polls. I heard a great deal of debate about your slate-mate’s votes against the ban on assault weapons and his vote to deregulate electricity in Maryland, and passionate, yet weak rebuttals. In fact, the Washington Times reported on the subject of the electric deregulation law passed by the legislature in 1999 and the consequences to Marylanders. Today, the Times reported the governor as stating that some have been trying to deflect blame from the flawed 1999 deregulation laws that caused the current crises. During your campaign, you avoided telling the voters how your slate-mate voted on the flawed 1999 Electric Deregulation Law.}***

After the polls closed, we went to Red, Hot and Blue for some food and drinks. It was obviously a less than thrilling time. I honestly believe in my heart that John Giannetti is an incredible Senator who has been an amazing contributor to our community. I was proud to join with my friends and family and thank all the volunteers who helped out on the campaign! John, Mark & Tekisha gave great speeches and I remain incredibly proud of what we accomplished. We had an electoral failure but many personal successes on a number of levels.
I will say this about Jim; his negative, nasty, mean-spirited, ethically questionable, dirty, campaign strategy worked perfectly.

***{You can’t resist another all-encompassing spiteful nonsense shot, can you Mike? I suppose that that is what Marylanders will have to put up with from you and your slate-mate for the next 18 months leading up to the Laurel City Election. Yes Mike, it is no secret; many of us in District 21 have heard of your plans from members of your camp that you and your slate-mate, having failed your District 21 effort, will run to wrest the Council seat positions from the current Laurel City Council incumbents.}***

From talking to hundreds of people, I got the overall sense that many people that came out to vote knew little about issues but knew or thought that they knew John was a bad person. In the next month or so, I plan to scan and post as much of the negative mail as possible so people can see it in its entirety.

***{What is this, the post-campaign Mike and John for City Council campaign plan Mike?}***

Jim has achieved one incredible goal, he has proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, there is a simple formula for victory in the 21st District: Loan yourself $300,000, collect a ton of money from out of state, and mail lies about your opponent every day to the voters in the District. Thanks Jim.

***{How typical of you Mike, another in a long line of cheap shots.}***

What will be interesting to see is how much of his "soul" he's sold to pay back all that money. Don't be shocked if you see a ton of PAC contributions and a Senator that will be hamstrung by his own addiction to negative mail. It's a costly addiction and someone has to pay. My prediction is that the PAC's will pay the postage and the citizens will pay the legislative cost. Sad.

***{Can’t resist Mike, can you? Perhaps since you such an apt prognosticator you should start another career predicting the future at a storefront on Route 1!}***

Despite my utter lack of confidence in Jim Rosapepe, my belief that he engaged in an ethically challenged campaign, my conviction that he will be a disaster for our District (in terms of getting things done for our District), I must stand ready to work with him for the betterment of our Community.

***{What a typical two-faced statement from you Mike. I’ve observed how you do this on television. You just can’t resist!}***

Therefore, I’ll officially say this: “Congratulations Jim, I’m looking forward to putting this election behind us, trying to move past your juvenile election day antics, and working with you for the benefit of my hometown.”
Hopefully that will heal any residual negative feelings between us. At the end of the day, I believe in building bridges despite our differences.

***{From your statements on you site and here it doesn’t appear that you know where the end of the day starts Mike, how to build bridges, nor apparently what political party you belong to.}***

The election results are being updated and can be found at: http://www.elections.state.md.us/current_election/results/legislative_district_21.html

***{Thank you in advance Jim, Barbara, Joseline and Ben for the work you will do for Marylanders. And thank you Brian for your statesman-like conduct in behalf of Marylanders for the last eight years.}***

Anonymous said...

I think we can agree that Mike S's bitter comments are a sad commentary of a concession. No congratulations to HIS opponents (who did not go negative), and the repeated references to the B-Team, are a poor sign.

However, Mike S. did raise a valid question about Jim R's tactics - were they negative? Did Jim R merely contrast his positions with John G's? Or did he distort these positions? Was the constant mail and phone calls decrying John's positions negative - all-in-all?

I see no problem contrasting positions. I see a problem with a constant barrage of "contrasts". I find the actions troubling.

I didn't see Joseline Pena-Melnyk, Mark Cook, Ben Barnes or others resort to "contrasts".

Rick - I think you need another thread as this one has gotten far removed from the Title topic.

Horace Capron said...

For the record, the B Team people talk about are: B.rian, B.arbara, and B.en. Sort of like the Pitts. Pirates of old (Bonds, Bonilla, etc) I didn't even vote and I knew that!

Attacking Mike like this is silly. The election is over. Yes a new thread is in order, maybe something like "Let's Pile On Mike Sarich."

Anonymous said...

And the "A" Team? Come on.

Anonymous said...

I think the A team is

Col. John "Hannibal" Smith
Face
Howling Mad" Murdock
B.A.(Bad Attitude) Baracas

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084967/

Anonymous said...

Rick Wilson responds:

I completely agree with Karen. There is absolutely no reason for Anon to pile on Mike Sarich.

I've allowed Anon. to carry on for some time now because I believe that there is a long and useful history for anonymous comments in the context of respectful political debate.

However, Anon. has certainly left the realm of utility and mutual respect long ago.

Since Mike is a public figure and more than able to take care of himself, I've felt no need to censor Anon's comments.

However, please do not take my decision to do so as approbation of Anon's comments or their extremely cowardly approach to commenting about Mike Sarich.

Rick Wilson

Anonymous said...

Question:

Mike Sarich, you might want to consider incorporating some of your blog observations of 16 September in your 18 September blog letter to the editor included below. Your constituents could than fairly compare and contrast your position as of 16 September previously commented by anonymous in this report, to your current position of 18 September.

I believe that prior anonymous commenting at this site may be highly critical but basically correctly portrays Mike Sarich.
Having observed Mike Sarich in action, I decided along with many other Marylanders that the needs of our community can best be met in the future by working to get out the vote in the upcoming General Election for Jim, Barbara, Ben and Joseline. After they are sworn in, Marylanders can work directly with the four of them on areas of concern, and can also support their energies to work with the Laurel Mayor and other Council Members for those City issues that are of concern to Marylanders living in the Laurel area, especially the correction of a real estate error to ensure that McCullough Field remains available for all in the Laurel Community to use forever.

After consideration and comparing and contrasting Mike Sarich comments of 13 September when he appeared on cable television, his letter to the editor of 18 September, and his previous comments of 16 September, I am sympathetic with anonymous comments that he does not “know where the end of the day starts Mike, how to build bridges, nor apparently what political party you belong to”.

Although I respect the opinion that this may be perceived as piling on Mike Sarich, I look at it as critical comment and overdue accounting for one who constantly sprinkles his commentary with aspersions about others that he is challenging or has challenged.

Blog Master:

I’m surprised that those using the anonymous option that you permitted when you established the blog are now accused of being a coward, by you! The answer to deny this “cowardly approach” is simple; do not permit anonymous comment on your site! Additionally, if you believe that some of the anonymous comments are not worthy of political consideration or discussion, the answer is simple, edit them out, and explain to all that you are the Editor Adjudicator.

As to Mike Sarich previous aspersions, “Further, why Rick Wilson would allow such a slanderous posting like that to linger on his site is quite simply a mystery. His site is above your charges, especially since he personally knows them to be without merit.” settle the question; do you personally know that the anonymous comments directed toward Mike Sarich are slanderous or without merit?
____________________________________________________________________________________
After the election, I gave a concession speech at the Red Hot & Blue, I followed that up with remarks and congratulations at our Mayor & Council Meeting on the 13th. As is my habit, I am also sending a letter to the editor. In case it doesn't make the cut (I'm sure the letters section is going to be crammed this week), I'm reproducing it here:
Editor,
Last Tuesday the voters of the 21st District chose new representatives to send to Annapolis. Two incumbents, Brian Moe & John Giannetti were both defeated in their bids to win re-election. To them, I’d like to offer my sincere thanks for their spirited service both to me as a constituent and to the City of Laurel. Yours is an important legacy and benchmark that your successors will have to work hard to match.
In particular, John Giannetti distinguished himself by running a positive, clean campaign. I was and remain proud to have run with him and am even prouder to consider him, Mark Cook and Tekisha Everette close friends. While the issues our campaigns brought forth dominated the debate, they failed at the ballot box. I remain grateful to Jhanna Levin, Stacy Hankin, my friends, family, supporters, the crew at BioInformatics, and the unsung hero’s that make all of our campaigns possible; our incomparable campaign staffers & volunteers!
I want to extend my congratulations and warm wishes to Joseline Pena-Melnyk, Ben Barnes, Barbara Frush, and Jim Rosapeppe. They all ran vigorous races that the voters responded to. I’m proud that Laurel’s good friend Barbara Frush will be the senior representative from our District and am hopeful she’ll lead and guide the team as they seek to fulfill their campaign pledges.
In particular, all candidates proclaimed their support for electrical aggregation, increased rail service, among other pledges. I’m hopeful that these pledges will result in action and I stand by to assist them in any way I can.
Once again, heartfelt and sincere congratulations to the winners. While your dedication, determination, and hard work have paid off at the ballot box, your real work has just begun! I am looking forward to doing anything I can to help make that work as successful as possible for both you & the people of Laurel.
Mike Sarich

Anonymous said...

Bulletin... Bulletin...the race is over. If you are so upset with Mike Sarich run against him in the next City Council or did you do that and lose. You are taking this way to personal for you just a regular voter. Did Mike run over your foot with his bike when he was a kid and this is your way to get back at him? Let the race go----GET OVER IT and work with the people who are there now.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you hit the issue dead-on: Mike Sarich ran over my toe ….. and the toes of many of my friends and neighbors, Marylanders and voters all!

Thank you for your advice that endorses my previous comment; we will work with those we nominated in the Primary and will elect in the General Election, and those currently in elective office that are quietly and effectively providing good government for the people.

Vote on November 7 and Adios Amigos!

Levet Brown said...

First I want to thank the club supporter that directed me to this site. As you will see from my response to Mr. Dernoga dated September 4, 2006, there is always 2 sides to a story. I also encourage the readers to visit the CB-72-2002 legislation drafted by the County Council and County Executive Office concerning McCullough and Phelps Center. While I agree that the City of Laurel’s intent was not for the club to have McCullough Field, it has been made clear to me by the County that the intent of the County was to surplus both properties and furthermore transfer those properties to the Laurel Boys and Girls Club through legislation (CB72-2002). I have looked at that bill and talk with the county and it is clear to me that the club is the rightful owner. It is also clear in the land records that McCullough Field and Phelps center have always transferred/and or sold together. After all it was Old Laurel High School. A majority of the schools in this country consists of a field and building. Now the club is suppose to except an explanation that somehow a minor mistake was made. Be advised that the City of Laurel never owned the field. The club is now being told to give up something it rightfully owns. The field and building are vital resources for the club and consequently critical to the City of Laurel and for that very reason the club and city will come to mutual benefiting agreement.

Also I am responding to the comment concerning the club being in the property management business. Be advised that we deal with disadvantaged youths and many of their families are unable to afford the fees to participate. Boys and Girls Club depend heavily on government grants, rentals, corporate support, etc. Bake sales, fundraisers play a small part in funding these types of organizations. The club has traditionally allowed youths to participate no matter what their income is.

The Laurel Boys and Girls Club is the largest boys and girls club in the state of Maryland and an affiliate of Prince George’s County Boys and Girls Club.

Again, Mr. Dernoga you misspoke in stating that you received a letter from me thanking you for supporting youths of various counties. I believe the letter encouraged you to support the Laurel Boys and Girls Club by releasing funding that your office is withholding from the Laurel Boys and Girls Club.

Concerning, the club being taxed by the City of Laurel. The Laurel Boys and Girls Club is the only club in the United States being taxed by its city. Taxing a boys and girls club is very concerning.

Mike Sarich is responsible for bringing about discussion concerning McCullough Field, and Fred Smalls is responsible for discussion concerning the Phelps Center. I never stated that Mike Sarich was negotiating the Phelps Center lease.

Levet G. Brown,
President of LBGC




September 4, 2006

Dear Chair Dernoga,

I am in receipt of your letter dated August 29, 2006, referencing Laurel Boys and Girls Club Funding. Thank you for responding to our members about their concerns.

From the reply you sent to our members, it is apparent to the club that you have been mislead and/or misspoken on many issues. Now that you have made it clear to the club as to your reasoning behind your decision to reallocate funding, the club can now respond to your concerns and at the same time provide our members with the facts.

Be advised that the current board’s tenure began in Jan. 2004. Many of the issues you raised in your response to the community members were inherited by this board and are no reflection on this current leadership ability to act fiscally responsible.

You specifically mentioned the above concerns.

• Payment for Property Taxes.
• Internal disputes.
• Lack of a Certified Audit.
• Payments for Attorney Fees.
• Substantial Out of County participation.
• Disputes with the City of Laurel.


Payment of Property Taxes
The leadership that is now present at the club started in 2004. Previous board members recruited us all. I myself was recruited because of my grant writing ability and knowledge of boys and girls club operations. We inherited the tax problem and were not made aware until our tenure. If you look at all the request concerning taxes, you will note that they came from me in 2004. I also attended the tax appeal hearing, in which I requested. I thank that tax appeal board for enlightening me on the process. The club is being taxed because of the fact that it rents out space. One of those rentals just happens to be the City of Laurel. I was also told about the exemption for clubs concerning property tax, which is simply to write a request each year for exemption of taxes from the county. The club has done this since gaining that information.

You are correct that the club does currently owe $7,000 dollars in taxes at this point. However, we are not delinquent.

I hope that you have contacted the City of Laurel concerning this tax issue and have expressed that youths should not be taxed. After all we are a non-profit and all funds benefit youths and our mission. The county obviously agrees since it has made a provision for boys and girls clubs regarding property taxes.

Internal Disputes
You mentioned a petition signed by members to get rid of the board of directors. Be advised that the petition you speak of was discarded due to the individuals giving the members misinformation. In fact our minutes reflect those facts. The member that was responsible for the petition was in fact in trouble with the club for improprieties. That member could have faced criminal charges, the club chose not to pursue. You can contact our attorney for that fact.

Concerning appointing members to the board. The President according to the bylaws has the authority to appoint board members; however those appointees must be approved by a majority of the board. (I will provide you with a copy of the bylaws).

You state the boxing program was ejected from the club. Again you misspoke; the boxing program is still at the club. You only have to visit our website or contact the club for the boxing membership list. In fact we offer boxing, martial arts, judo, etc. We only replaced the commissioner. The current Commissioner is Robert Crawford; Robert has been involved with the boxing program for over 15 years. The boxing program is available for youth’s boys and girls ages 5-18.

You mentioned the lawsuit being dropped. You are correct. In fact this group attempted to drop the lawsuit before it went to court. However, the club did not agree to drop the lawsuit because of the amount of time and money we spent to prepare for the hearing. This lawsuit was frivolous. All of their allegations were frivolous. Again you can contact our attorney for this fact. In fact in our meeting you stated you would contact Elisa Levan our attorney. The lawsuit was dropped after two days in court.

You mentioned elections and the fact that elections had not been held for 5 years. Again you misspoke. Elections were held in 2003 and 2006. You also misspoke concerning only Directors ran for election. We actually had 3 other members that ran for the board. Trent Nole, Tefanee Chaney and Chantel Upshur/Myles, they are currently on the board. In fact over the years the club has had difficulty securing board members as this is a serious commitment of time and energy, again you only have to revisit the minutes of the club to garnish those facts. The club advertised the election and asked for candidates but only received twelve eligible people for twelve openings.

Concerning the member leaving the club for another club. The club found it very difficult to conduct its business with this particular individual. First of all this individual threaten the Executive Director in the presence of youth and adult members. This individual again in front of several members threatened that he would cost the club thousands of dollars in legal fees. He also threatened the President of the club. Furthermore, it is ironic that this very person when picking up his belongings at the club mentioned that he heard the club was losing funding!

Lack of Certified Audit
The club was told that the reason that this organization could not perform the audit was due to Flo Amigh (Executive Administrator) was no longer with the club. Flo would basically walk the Bormel and Grace (Outside Auditors) through the system, due to the system being old and outdated. Again a system the current board inherited. As you know the club has now implemented a new system (Quick Books). You mentioned that the club’s accountant would not do the audit. Be advised that Bormel and Grace is not the club’s accountant, they only conducted our audits.

You mentioned that LBGC gave an individual associated with LBGC $40,000 dollars in contracts to do renovations and that the individual may have not been licensed or certified or did improvements that did not meet code requirements. Again you have been mislead. Be advised that in order to receive monies from the club concerning renovations the contractor must be approved by the state of Maryland, since the State of Maryland pays said contractor. Furthermore our Project Leader (Michael Kogut) is very good with codes and on many occasions has worked very closely with Fire Marshals that have visited the club on various codes. So again someone has misinformed you.

Payment of Attorney Fees
The particular grant that you reallocated is for renovations only. With grants you are required to state what they will be used for, this gives the grantor the opportunity to monitor the project and account for the funds granted. The grantors will not reimburse or pay for anything outside the scope of that grant. So the $200,000 that you reallocated would not have been or couldn’t have been used for attorney fees. Unfortunately the club’s members are saddled with the burden of providing funds for attorney fees.

The $12,500 dollars that you are currently withholding can come with stipulations attached if you choose to make stipulations.

Out of County participation
Be advised that I personally contacted Howard County Representatives Guy Guzzone, County Executive Robey, and several grantors last year. Their response is that the club is not in Howard County. This is a matter that we will continue to pursue. In fact the club services the poorest part of Howard County (Southern Howard County). I have a personal interest in that area in that I responded to a call two years ago in which an 11 year old latchkey kid’s skull was crushed by a truck, and he died on the scene in that apartment complex. When the Fire Department contacted the parent at work she could hardly speak English.

LBGC is not provided any fields or facilities by any other counties. I hope that our elected officials and members of that community can meet with these county officials and request support for the club and thus take the unwelcome burden off the Prince George’s County and the City of Laurel.

Regardless, the club’s mission is to work in partnership with the Greater Laurel Area Community. Youths should not suffer because of the fact that they happen to live outside certain areas.

The fact is that the Laurel Boys and Girls Club just happen to sit in the middle of the City of Laurel. Secondly, a majority of the club members reside in the City of Laurel and furthermore Prince George’s County. I can provide you the statistics on this fact.

CDBG money is federal money and that would not affect anything concerning out of county participation.

Disputes with the City of Laurel
You misspoke about the fact that LBGC is raising the rent on the Phelps Center to address funding problems. The club has over $100,000 dollars in the bank. Furthermore, the club’s facility is now becoming safe and secure for our families and community. As I mentioned to the City of Laurel, the club is in need of additional space. We have our cheerleaders practicing in a classroom. They deserve better! You mentioned that LBGC has chosen a confrontational approach to dealing with the city. Again I disagree. Now that Fred Smalls has entered into the equation, the problem concerning the Phelps Center is nearing a conclusion. The City of Laurel has already been informed that we have no intentions to throw out the seniors. In fact we suggested to them that we wanted to speak with the senior leadership to attempt to work something out.

McCullough Field
It is the club’s opinion that the field belongs to the children of Laurel. In fact for many years a sign on the field reflected that very fact. The club’s leadership reflects the membership interest. The club’s belief is that the field and building were sold to the club. How else could the club operate its sports’ programs? The club believes that a sports park will benefit the community. As community leaders we need to come together on this issue. Two years ago I brought to the city’s attention about the possibility of the sports park. This is not new. In fact I spoke with Ms. Anderson about her thoughts on this as lights were also mentioned in this venture.

I find it ironic that you have stated the County made a mistake by surplusing the club the field but found it okay to surplus the club a deteriorating facility, with a promise to fix the facility. But in fact the money to fix the property initially came from the State of Maryland. A process initiated by this leadership in 2005. The club obtained the properties in December 2002 from a surplus sale initiated by the County Executive’s Office.

I believe that concerning McCullough Field that the community, which includes the City of Laurel are going to join together and make this work for all.

Use of intimidation tactics is only going to further inflame this already tough issue.



Seniors/Phelps Center
The club has been in contact with the Laurel Senior Friendship Club concerning their future at the Phelps Center. Patrick Reed (Club’s Executive Director) met with their Executive Committee and addressed their concerns. The seniors were assured that all their activities needs will be met. You can contact President Nan Tripp (301) 490-0886 of the Laurel Senior Friendship Club. The club will continue to provide needed space for its senior community and thus a good relationship both parties have enjoyed for the past 40 years.

Prince George’s County non-support
Recently it was stated in the newspaper that the club was circulating emails and cards concerning the county’s non-support. The club has not circulated cards or emails stating the above. The club’s only concern is that Mr. Dernoga reallocated $200,000 dollars of funds that the club was awarded by the County Executive’s office. The fact is Prince George’s County is a big supporter of the boys and girls club. The County has provided boys and girls club fields and funding. In fact just recently I was contacted by the President of Kettering/Mitchellville Boys and Girls club informing me that Councilman Samuel Dean (District 6) and Senator Currie (D-25) has secured 117 square feet of prime real estate from the State Capital Improvement Program Budget, for additional information , feel free to contact Judith Singletary, TWR Associates @ (301) 352-7801.

Finally, I would like to commend the Prince George’s County Boys and Girls Club for supporting their affiliate, Laurel Boys and Girls Club for the last 50 years.

For the record, the club applauds the county for their support of boys and girls club. The club’s only concern is not with the county but lies with Mr. Dernoga’s decision to reallocate earmarked funding for the club.

Final
You claim that the club became frustrated and called upon its members to contact you concerning the reallocation of the $200,000 dollar grant that was approved by the County Executive Office. Again you misspoke, the club became frustrated because we made several attempts to you to find out why and where the $200,000 dollars was reallocated. Furthermore when Patrick Reed and I met in your office on July 12 you stated that the $200,000 dollars had been reallocated. We stated to you that this couldn’t be because the club had already spent $80,000 dollars of that money and furthermore we have an operating agreement. You then addressed your assistant to check into this. So you see the club is now aware that you attempted to take the P31 grant money as well. What we did not realize is that you actually reallocated P32 money. We did not realize this until we received a letter from the County Executive Office stating this fact. We immediately contacted the County Executive Office and spoke to Thomas Michael Thompson, Director (301) 883-5540, “who stated that your County Councilman reallocated the funds against his wishes and County Executive Jack Johnson, in fact they further stated to you that the county had already put money into that much needed project”.

Also I want to further advise you that Mr. Thompson personally contacted me in February and he “stated congratulations the County Executive has approved your $200,000 dollars Laurel Boys and Girls Club Renovation grant and keep up the good work”.

The fact is the club’s leadership would not have had to call on its members to pressure you into responding as to why and where the P32-$200,000 went had you responded to the club’s repeated attempts to get those answers from you.

Also concerning the CDBG grant, again you misspoke. The Laurel Boys and Girls Club were quite aware of this type of grant, in fact we are on the list with the federal register. The club found it beneficial to join in with the county in applying for this grant. We felt that applying alone for this grant we would not receive it. So we chose to collaborate with the county. You mentioned that you walked us through this grant process. Be advised that I wrote the CDBG grant and attended all the meetings. In fact I have written all the club’s grants in the last 2 years. This I did by walking alone. You simply supported the CDBG P31 grant.

I now have a more understanding as to why you reallocated funds that were earmarked to renovate the Laurel Boys and Girls Club. What is disturbing is that your decision was made on misinformation. What is more alarming is that you did not meet with the Club’s leadership before making such an important decision. Had you met with the Club’s leadership I am confident that you would have had no other choice but to support the County Executive’s Office recommendation to award $200,000 dollars to the club for these badly needed renovations. The club is confident however, that supporters, local businesses and elected officials will come to the aid of its most vital resource, its children.

You also failed to inform the Community Members in your letter that you made a failed attempt to stop P31 money ($200,000) but realized after Patrick spoke up that we had an operating agreement.

Concerning the character of the leadership and honor of the Laurel Boys and Girls Club. I differ in your opinion. These leaders are members of the community that do not benefit in anyway except the satisfaction of helping youths. These individuals spend countless hours away from their families.

I encourage you to please do as the State of Maryland did when contacted by disgruntled individuals, investigate before making rash decision. Had the State acted rashly, the club would not have received $570,000. In fact Senator Giannetti personally visited the club to clear up any misunderstandings. Also be advised that we contacted the Laurel Leader and Gazette and invited them in to go over the frivolous allegations.

The facts are that this leadership brought the club out of a $90,000 dollar deficit and secured thousands of dollars in funding for its youths, improved programs and making elected officials accountable to its youths. Started major renovations, in fact the first renovations in 55 years, fact is, U.S. Representative Albert Wynn stated when visiting the club 2 years ago, “I would not let my kids use those bathrooms; bathrooms that were indeed used previous to this board’s tenure.

You mentioned that you have been involved in the club for the past 10 years. Then you are well aware of the conditions of the club’s financial and deteriorating facility. In fact during that 10 year period the club was saddled with a $200,000 dollar IRS tax bill, due to the casino activity and in fact a member being jailed for improprieties.

You now have a leadership that took over the club 2 years ago with a debt of over $90,000 dollars, deteriorating facility, old and outdated accounting system and its doors about to close to its youths.

We now have over $100,000 dollars in the bank, secured our vital resources (Phelps and McCullough Field), improved our programs (intramural youths now have referees, full uniforms), operate summer camp that services over 100 youths, provide space for many community groups and started major renovations to our facility.

Please act in the best interest of our kids and release the $12,500 dollars to the club and furthermore consider allocating additional funding from the funds you mentioned to Patrick Reed and I. Thank You.

I am to confident that we will get past the present set of issues and that LBGC will continue to provide recreational and enrichment programs to our youth and families.

Sincerely,


Levet G. Brown, President LBGC


P.S. The documents concerning the facts are available upon request.

Levet Brown said...

This letter is to inform the community and dispel rumors concerning the Laurel Boys and Girls Club.

First I would like to thank the many volunteers, supporters and grass root organizations that support the Club. I would also like to commend the current leadership of the club for taking on the responsibility of making this club safe and secure for our community. These people volunteer a lot of their personal time to this club, time taken away from their very own families.

The current leadership of the club took office in January of 2004. This leadership inherited many of the problems that they are now being unfairly criticized for: tax problems, deteriorating facility, outdated accounting system, no after school programs, ninety thousand dollar deficit, threat of the club closing to its youths and community and not knowing what its actual resources are.

I find it ironic when I hear that the club has been positive over the past years, when the facts are that the club was $90,000 dollars in debt, paid the IRS over $200,000 dollars in tax penalties during the casino era for wrongdoing, operated its programs under
deplorable conditions in its facility for years, which included human dignity conditions such as: moldy conditions, condemned toilets, wash bowls, lack of toilet paper, soap and dispensers for feminine hygiene products to name a few. This current leadership was outraged by the conditions at the club and took swift action to correct these problems.

Upon taking office this leadership invited Joe Murchison of the Laurel Leader to take a look at the club’s financial situation and deplorable conditions in hope of making the public aware of the club’s financial situation and the facilities deplorable condition at that time.

The club has since corrected many of these problems. We no longer have a tax debt, our accounting program has been updated, our $90,000 dollar deficit has been erased, we now have a computer lab, recreational area and quality summer camp program, we know what our resources are, we no longer have human dignity problems at the club and most importantly we now have an Executive Director to implement our strategic plan which is available on our website.

In March 2006 the club hired Patrick Reed as Executive Director, he discovered through research of Public Records that the Laurel Boys and Girls Club was transferred property called the Laurel Educational Center, which is the building located at 701 Montgomery Street and McCullough Field. This property was transferred to the Club by the County Executive Office and County Council through CB-72-2002, which is legislation giving them the authority to surplus the fore mentioned property.

Facts are Prince George’s County obtained the property from the Board of Education at no cost; the Board of Education received the property from an unknown donor in 1936. In 2002 through legislation, Prince George’s County transferred the property to the Laurel Boys and Girls Club. Currently the City of Laurel has a lease with Prince George’s County concerning McCullough Field; however the county no longer owns the field. The club is currently honoring this lease. In August of 2007 the City of Laurel’s lease with the County ends.

Concerning the senior citizen community, I would like to state that the club has had extensive talks with the senior community and has insured our senior community that the Phelps Center will be made available to them for the duration.

I would like to state that this leadership will continue to have an open door policy concerning our records. Our records are available for anyone to see. I also invite the public to visit the club to see first hand what is happening here.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Senator John Giannetti and Delegate Brian Moe for their support of the Laurel Boys and Girls Club; these elected officials have secured over $800,000 dollars during their tenure. The club will no doubt miss their support. I hope that their successors will continue their legacy.

For more information on the club, legislation concerning McCullough and Maryland State Tax and Assessment, please visit the following sites.

Anonymous said...

This is Patrick Reed speaking.

Yes, the one that all of you love to talk about behind my back but do not have the courage to invite to speak on behalf of the clubs views. First I would like to say, you all put way to much faith in your local politicians. You take their word as if it came from God's lips. I want to take a minute and explain to everyone who reads this sight what T.E.D. (as some of you call him) fails to mention.

For some reason, many of you do not believe it was the county's intent to give McCullough field to the club. Your reasoning is based only on what T.E.D. has told you. Last time I checked, there are 8 other council members, a county executive, and central services. I am willing to bet that none of you have even read CB-72-2002 which is the piece of legislation which T.E.D., 8 other councilmen, and the county executive approved. If you read this legislation, you will notice that the Laurel Education Center is the first listing of property on the list of county land, which was surplused. You will also notice 2 tax ID numbers and 2 different zoning codes.

Now, lets talk about the city for a minute. The city has absolutely nothing to do with the McCullough field issue except for the fact that they leased the land from the county until 2002. The only involvement that the current city officials had was the act of sending a letter in support of both property transfers. Mayor Moe sent that letter to the county which described both properties, the city's support of the transfer, and his signature. If he did not intend to do that, that is one hell of a mistake. In fact, the city does not have a first right of refusal like some of you think. The county offered the building to the city first as a courtesy. I have spoken with central services that made it very clear that the city has no special rights. In fact, they stated it was very clear to them what the intention of the county was, to give the Laurel Education Center properties to the club.

Let me give you a brief history of what I mean by the Laurel Education Center. This land was given to the Prince George's County Board of Education in the 1930's by an unknown person (probably Alice McCullough). This included both the building and the field. Why? Because virtually every high school has a field. In 1976, it was then transferred from the board of education to the county. In 2002, it was then transferred to the club. For what reason would the county want to split up a school and it's field. None, that is why they gave them both to the club. Only T.E.D. from the county thinks the city should have gotten it. Ask the other 8 councilman who were there at the time. Ask the past county executive. Ask central services. You people hold Tom Dernoga up as some kind of saint. Let me tell you what I know to be true about Tom Dernoga.

A couple of months ago, Tom invited me down to his office to have a discussion. Both I and Mr. Brown went. What transpired in that office confirmed my views of this areas local officials. Tom told Mr. Brown and me that he would cut all of our funding if we did not give McCullough field to the city. Now for those of you who do not understand some of the complexities of the law, this is classified as blackmail. Do this or I will do that. Next, he began to tell us about the $70,000 in allocation money he had to give away. He explained that if we did what he wanted then he would give us some of that money. That is what some of us call bribery. Now you tell me why I should believe this man when he tells me it was not the county's intent to give the field to the club. I was not involved in the club in 2002. Tom Dernoga is only one councilman and other councilman who asked me not to give out their name, called me and said they do not agree with what the chair is doing. You tell me why I should believe someone who just blackmailed the club, bribed the club, and his peers are calling me and saying they do not condone his actions.

There are many other things I could go on about regarding the lies, blackmail and bribery tactics, and just plain crazy actions Mr. Dernoga and the city have used to try force a Boys and Girls Club to give away it's field, but I have better things to do. Maybe some of you who are so quick to criticize the club should try doing some volunteer work of your own. Maybe even become part of the solution. Until then, keep your opinions to yourself or at least educate yourself before you criticize someone. Everyone currently at the LBGC takes countless hours away from their family time to help the children in this community without pay and without thanks. They do not need your criticism too.

Patrick Reed
Executive Director
Laurel Boys and Girls Club

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