Tag Archives: Public Information Act

Law Firm Client Requesting County Email Lists Identified

By Adam Pagnucco.

Earlier today, we published a piece noting that an associate with the law firm Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, P.C. requested the county’s email lists.  The post contained an important error: the firm did in fact identify its client in its request letter to the county.   Law firm member Joseph E. Sandler wrote the following to us this morning:

Your piece in Seventh State regarding our law firm’s Public Information Act request for e-mail records, submitted to Montgomery County, is flat-out inaccurate.  County law requires that a lawyer submitting such a request on behalf of a client disclose the client—Empower Montgomery– and Ms. Krupke did so, in her letter, of copy of which is attached.  The County website did not list the client but Ms. Krupke’s letter did disclose it.  Apparently you didn’t bother to check the letter itself.  Please run an immediate retraction/correction.  Thanks for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Joe Sandler

When your author requested that Mr. Sandler cite the section of state or county law requiring attorney disclosure of clients when making Public Information Act (PIA) requests, he replied, “Our view is that we were required, by the rules of legal ethics, to disclose the client in these circumstances.  We do not believe it is required by state or county law.”

Sandler’s firm did in fact disclose the client in their PIA request.  The request itself did not appear on the county’s website.  We were wrong in implying that the firm intended to protect the identity of the client.  We reprint the request letter below.

Empower Montgomery, the client requesting the emails, is an advocacy group whose co-founders are real estate executives Charlie Nulsen and Chris Bruch, former health care executive David Blair and former County Council Member Steve Silverman.  Blair has been mentioned as a possible candidate for County Executive twice in the Washington Post.  Silverman was once the Director of the county’s Department of Economic Development and is now a registered lobbyist with both the county and the state.

We apologize to Mr. Sandler and his firm for implying in our original post that their Public Information Act request was intended to conceal the identity of their client.  That was clearly wrong.  Even so, the news that a rumored potential County Executive candidate and a registered lobbyist with business before the county are now in possession of the county’s email lists is interesting in and of itself.

Share

Law Firm That Has Represented Candidates Requests County Email Lists

By Adam Pagnucco.

Correction

The law firm in this post identified its client as Empower Montgomery.  Please read our follow-up and bear this in mind when reading further.

Original Post

After Westbard activist Robert Lipman requested electronic copies of the email lists possessed by the offices of the County Executive and the County Council, others including Robin Ficker and a supposed Nigerian prince requested them too.  But the most recent request for the emails is most interesting because it may protect the identity of the ultimate requester.

Jessica Krupke, an associate of Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, P.C., has filed a Public Information Act (PIA) request with the county asking for a “complete list of esubscription email addresses and paperless airplane email addresses.”  The county’s PIA website indicates that a response was posted on April 19 but it is not visible on opening.  Sandler Reiff is a law firm specializing in campaign finance and election law.  Why would they need more than 200,000 email addresses of county residents?

The PIA request on the county’s website.

It turns out that the firm, headed by former Democratic National Committee general counsel Joseph E. Sandler, has a long work history in Maryland.  Sandler has represented former Council Member Duchy Trachtenberg and her former aide, Dana Beyer, in the past.  State Board of Elections records show that Sandler Reiff has been paid by many campaign committees over the years, including those of former Governor Martin O’Malley, former Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, State Senator Will Smith (D-20), Delegate Ben Kramer (D-19), Prince George’s County Council Member Deni Taveras, the Maryland Democratic Senate Caucus Committee, the Maryland House Democratic Caucus Committee and other committees associated with labor unions and gambling interests.  That may just scratch the surface of the firm’s relationships in Maryland.

Until now, while some candidates may covet the county’s email lists, the prospect of public condemnation has undoubtedly deterred at least a few of them from submitting PIA requests for the lists under their own names.  (The PIA requests themselves are public records and subject to disclosure.)  But if candidates can get a law firm like Sandler Reiff to obtain the emails on their behalf, they can dodge any scrutiny in obtaining the lists.

Pandora’s Box is now wide open.

Share