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Lawyer: Wivell lawsuit should be dismissed

October 31, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Washington County Commissioner William J. Wivell's open records lawsuit should be dismissed because Wivell is not a party to the matter and because a court can't issue an advisory opinion, according to an attorney defending the county.

Attorney William McC. Schildt represents the Washington County Commissioners, who are being pressed to release the terms of a secret retirement contract with former Economic Development Commission Executive Director John Howard.

Schildt on Wednesday filed an answer to Wivell's latest defense of his lawsuit.

Wivell, a Republican, sued the commissioners - including himself - on Sept. 5 in an attempt to force the release of the information.

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Republican County Commission candidate John Munson filed his own suit asking for the information on Monday.

Wivell and Munson are among 10 candidates for county commissioner in Tuesday's election.

Wivell filed his suit after the county rejected two Public Information Act requests by The Herald-Mail Co. for the terms of the contract. Wivell said he has the information in his possession as a commissioner, but he is worried about a lawsuit if he releases it without a judge's order.

Schildt has argued that Wivell has "no standing" in the matter because he did not file a Public Information Act request.

"The Plaintiff has not been denied the records which he asks the Court to order the Defendant to furnish to him," Schildt's latest filing in Washington County Circuit Court says.

Citing a 1989 case involving Anne Arundel County, Schildt wrote, "The rendering of advisory opinions by courts" - for which Wivell has seemingly asked - "is 'a long forbidden practice in this State.'"

Munson filed his suit after his own Public Information Act request was denied.

Howard went on administrative leave in late March and left his job May 8. The county announced on June 11 that he had retired.

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