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Wright discusses intent of remarks

December 11, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III said Tuesday he didn't intend for his comments last week to the County Commissioners that alluded to their lawsuit against the City of Hagerstown to overshadow their swearing-in ceremony, but he's not sorry he made them.

Wright said he discussed his statements with the commissioners on Tuesday, remarks some commissioners took as a partial apology.

"I didn't apologize to anybody" for the comments, Wright said.

Last week, Wright, who officiated at the ceremony at the Washington County Courthouse, urged the commissioners to cooperate with the City of Hagerstown and to make decisions that will benefit the entire county.

The comments came a day after the county filed a $2.5 million suit against the city over its annexation policy.

Wright said at the ceremony that residents may be encouraged to sue their neighbors if they see their leaders doing it.

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Wright said Tuesday he's sorry if his statements became more of an issue than the commissioners taking oaths to serve the public for the next four years.

"He apologized basically because it probably was not the appropriate time and place," Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said.

But Nipps said she didn't think Wright was sorry he made the comments.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said he considered Wright's Tuesday comments to be an apology.

"He came in and he said my apologies for my remarks," Wivell said. "He didn't come right out and say he was wrong. He just said he did not purposefully mean to start a firestorm."

Wright said Tuesday afternoon he did not mean for his comments, which received public attention, to cast a cloud over the swearing-in event.

"I did not intend to upstage the celebration of their day by my comments," Wright said. "I did not intend to start a firestorm."

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he didn't take Wright's statements Tuesday as an apology but that Wright may have commented without knowing all the facts of the city/county annexation issue.

"I understand the point he was trying to make," Snook said. "I think every commissioner is going to try and take a more common-sense approach."

Commissioner John C. Munson said he thought Wright on Tuesday wanted the commissioners to know he wasn't trying to take charge of the county when he commented at the ceremony.

"I think he was just trying to say he wasn't trying to direct county policy," Munson said. "He was not apologizing."

"I guess we all hear things differently," Wivell said.

Munson said maybe Wright's comments at the swearing-in ceremony were too strong.

Wright and the commissioners said the issue has not caused a conflict.

Nipps said Wright had the right to make the comments.

"Judge Wright is a wonderful person," Nipps said. "He's the conscience of the community."

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