Montgomery County officials should be reporting their campaign activity to the state Board of Elections, just like anyone else who advocates for something on the ballot, the Maryland State Prosecutor wrote in a Friday letter.
However, criminal charges will not be brought against the county officials who have been distributing flyers, posters and bumper stickers and placing ads on the sides of Montgomery County Ride On buses urging voters to support a ballot measure reining in the police union's collective bargaining rights, State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt wrote.
Because the county officials were following the advice of County Attorney Marc Hansen -- who devised a legal opinion on the issue based on his reasonable interpretation of the law -- the officials were not acting with "criminal intent," Davitt explained.
Davitt opened a criminal investigation into the county's actions earlier this week after the Fraternal Order of Police filed a formal complaint about the use of taxpayer dollars to distribute campaign materials. The county's Office of Public Information has spent at least $6,000 on the effort, according to department Director Patrick Lacefield, none of which has been reported to the state Board of Elections.
Though the State Prosecutor said that the county should be following the same campaign finance rules as everyone else, Davitt wrote in his letter, the matter is ambiguous enough that state Attorney General Doug Gansler should weigh in.
And whether the county should be allowed to campaign at all -- even if its activities are reported to the Board of Elections -- is something the state legislature should decide, he wrote.