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County grant to Discovery Station questionable

June 24, 2006

To the editor:

The Washington County Commissioners may have violated Subtitle 1-108 of the Code of the Local Public Laws of Washington County by giving $20,000 of county funds to the Discovery Station on April 18.

The last fiscal year for the county ended June 30, 2005. On Nov. 1, 2005, B. Marie Byers asked the commissioners for money for the Discovery Station at the commissioners' regularly scheduled meeting and she was told to submit an application to get the Discovery Station put on a list of nonprofit organizations that are eligible to receive funds under Subtitle 1-108.

Byers agreed to submit the application. At that time, neither the commissioners nor Byers gave any indication that they thought that the Discovery Station was on the approved list of nonprofit organizations eligible to receive funds under Subtitle 1-108. Subtitle 1-108(c)(1) states: "The County Commissioners may add to the list under subsection (a) of this section upon application by an organization. The application shall be made at least 90 days before the county's fiscal year begins and after a public hearing on the request for funds has been held."

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Therefore, the application for the Discovery Station should have been submitted to the county before April 1, 2005, in order for the Discovery Station to be eligible for county funds now. Subtitle 1-108 (b)(2) states:

"The County Commissioners may include on the list of nonprofit organizations any organization approved by public local law or by the County Commissioners on or before Sept. 30, 1998, without requiring an application or hearing before inclusion on the list."

Discovery Station was incorporated as a private, nonprofit organization in the State of Maryland on July 5, 1996, but there is no indication that Discovery Station was included on the list of nonprofit organizations approved by public local law or by the County Commissioners, and therefore Discovery Station may not have been eligible to receive county funds under Subtitle 1-108 without requiring an application or hearing. The code of public local laws is available on the county Web site.

Commissioners Greg Snook, James Kercheval and Doris Nipps might have broken the law by voting for the grant. Commissioners John Munson and Willaim Wivell voted against the grant. Commissioners Snook, Kercheval and Nipps liberally spend all the county funds. Commissioners Munson and Wivell usually choose to spend wisely.

Daniel Moeller
Rohrersville

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