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John Munson sues

Wants details on county's payment to Howard

Wants details on county's payment to Howard

October 29, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Seeking information about a confidential agreement with a retired county department head, Washington County Commissioner candidate John Munson sued the county Monday.

Munson, a Republican, is the second commissioner candidate to file suit over the retirement package the Washington County Commissioners approved for former Economic Development Commission Executive Director John Howard.

Republican William J. Wivell, an incumbent seeking re-election, filed suit against the commissioners - including himself - on Sept. 5. That case is pending.

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The county has moved to dismiss Wivell's suit, in part on the grounds that he never filed a Public Information Act request for the Howard contract and therefore has no standing.

Munson, however, filed a Public Information Act request on Oct. 10, asking for "the amount of money Mr. Howard received when he resigned or retired ...."

"This money is taxpayers' money and I do have a legal right to know," Munson wrote.

The county denied Munson's request the next day.

County Attorney Richard Douglas wrote in the rejection letter that the county is prohibited from releasing terms of the contract because it's considered either "a personnel record of an individual" or "a public record that contains information about the finances of an individual, including ... income ...."

At the time he filed his request, Munson said, "I think those people should be honest and tell us what they gave Mr. Howard. I'm trying to put the pressure on to get this released."

Munson's complaint was filed in Washington County Circuit Court Monday by his attorney, Gregory C. Bannon.

The complaint asks for a Circuit Court judge to privately review the agreement, then order the release of its contents - minus anything that legally can be withheld.

Wivell has said in his court filings that, as a county commissioner, he already has the terms of the agreement, but he is worried about a lawsuit if he were to release the information.

Douglas was out of town Monday and not available to comment on Munson's complaint.

Howard went on administrative leave in late March and left his job May 8.

The county announced on June 11 that Howard had retired.

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