Hello, Mr. Hansen. This is Adam Pagnucco. I am working with a group of folks who are advocating for Delegate Bill Frick’s legislation to allow competition in the county’s alcohol industry.
I am in receipt of the attached flyer which I understand is being distributed in county liquor stores. The flyer is unquestionably a political communication and not a commercial advertisement.
As you know, the state’s Court of Special Appeals has ruled that the county “may speak to advance its existing policies and programs, to advocate for policy changes, and to advocate against policy changes.” http://www.mdcourts.gov/opinions/cosa/2015/0175s14.pdf However, during the Question B campaign of 2012, the county ran ads for its point of view on Ride On buses and denied the Fraternal Order of Police the same opportunity. ACLU of Maryland protested that and the county decided to allow FOP ads, but it was too late in the campaign for the ads to appear. The ACLU wrote, “When the government privileges one side of a political debate in a forum open to private speakers, as Montgomery County is doing here, it engages in viewpoint discrimination clearly prohibited by the First Amendment.” http://www.aclu-md.org/press_room/82
As the County Attorney, here is my question to you. If the county is using its facilities to distribute political speech, as it did with the Ride On buses, can county citizens with a different point of view use those same facilities to also distribute political speech? In other words, can we request that our flyers be distributed along with the county’s flyers?
It looks bad that the County has had time to arrange to get these fliers into county owned liquor stores even as the Department of Liquor Control caused a major snafu with delivery screw-ups in the week before New Year’s Eve.