Howard County Maryland Blog

Convention of States in Maryland

Archive for the ‘Damn Interesting’ Category

When is a news story a news story?

Posted by David Keelan on Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The fact that this has not received in depth news coverage is a news story in itself.

It is understandable that reporters must be careful when reporting on events that negatively reflect on an individual’s behavior and actions.

The reporter and news organization must adhere to a set of principles that verify and corroborate the incident through reliable sources. A journalist should not attempt to publish a story without following strict guidelines.  Ethical journalism is intended to enlighten the public on matters that are of public interest through an accurate and fair process.

But how long does it take to report a verified story that has important implications and is of obvious public interest?

The events of September 30, 2018 in which the current Register of Wills, Byron Macfarlane, gave his secure access card to a group of people who then used Mr. Macfarlane’s card to enter the courthouse after hours and without his presence is certainly a news story and of public interest.

I have spoken to reporters about his incident. Each one of them asks, “Has it been verified” to which I reply, yes. However, you cannot take my word for it and I encourage them to call the Sheriff’s office, or the Administrative Judge’s office. The Sheriff’s office may be reluctant to discuss it but they are not going to lie about it either.

This incident has been documented in a Sheriff’s office report to the Maryland Courts. When asked if the elected official responsible for the breach of security was Byron Macfarlane the Sheriff’s office affirms that it was Byron Macfarlane.

This incident became known publically when a lawyer, who conducts business at the Howard County Courthouse, discussed the events in exasperation and wondering aloud what the Administrative Judge was going to do to address the incident, and prevent further occurrences.

An elected official, Mr. Macfarlane, permitted afterhours access to an unauthorized group of people and failed to grace them with his presence as they entered the courthouse. The courthouse is a secure facility. One only need to consider the metal detector, and the deputy sheriffs operating the screening procedures at the public entrance to the building that there are security procedures and concerns that require controlled access. Mr. Macfarlane’s office is in the courthouse and he observes these procedures every time he enters the courthouse. I don’t know whether he observes the same security procedures as the general public. Whenever I have been to the courthouse I have had to follow those security procedures.

Why do courthouses have security procedures? Seems obvious to me. But apparently it is not as obvious to Mr. Macfarlane (despite his 4 year term as the Register of Wills working in the Courthouse).

A courthouse is a public facility and vulnerable to acts of violence. The safety of people, documents, and property is clearly important. So is the integrity of the judicial process. To that end procedures have been created and enacted. Mr. Macfarlane either does not appreciate this or thinks he is immune to security protocols.

Courthouses are not immune from violence. On September 12, 2011 a man went on a rampage in Crawford County, Arkansas looking for a judge and shot the judge’s case coordinator. On December 15, 2011 a man convicted of sexual assault in Grand Marais County, Minnesota shot the county attorney and the father of one of the his victims. It happens more frequently than we would like to think about.

Citation: https://ncsc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/facilities/id/182

Allowing an unescorted group of people (I heard a 20 person film crew) to enter the courthouse after hours could lead to a catastrophic injury, loss of life, breach of integrity of ongoing cases, loss of vital documents and records, physical damage to security equipment and the building.

So, I am at a loss. The journalists in print, radio, and television know about this incident, they read the blogs and the facebook posts. They understand there is a great deal of public interest in this story. Why won’t they do the same investigating that dozens of private citizens have conducted?

The fact that this has not received in depth news coverage is a news story in itself.

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Byron Macfarlane should resign and concede the election!

Posted by David Keelan on Saturday, October 20, 2018

In my previous post I discussed an incident where in elected official gave his secure key card pass for entrance into the Howard County Courthouse to group of people. This group then used the secure key card to enter the courthouse after courthouse hours – without the company of this elected official.

It is simply outrageous that a person elected by the people into a position of trust would show disregard for or ignorance of the safety and security of our own courthouse, those that work there, the citizens that have business with the court, and where he works. This person on this act alone should speak up and do the right thing – retire from politics! Now!

I heard rumors of who this selected official might be and made polite but pointed inquiries of him, but as of now I have not received a reply. He should speak up now because this story is getting bigger, and he must have hoped it would not come up in public before the election. It has come forward!

So, it seems to be confirmed that the elected official in question is the Register of Wills (row) of Howard County, Byron Macfarlane, and who’s office is in the courthouse. Mr. Macfarlane is running for re-election this year! I hope he has sense not to and promptly resigns the office.

Since learning about this ignorant act I looked him up on the internet and found this article on Marylandreporter.com

Mr. Macfarlane may want to put his time and effort where it is needed most – HIMSELF.

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Howard County Courthouse Security Breach

Posted by David Keelan on Saturday, October 20, 2018

It has been reported that on September 30, a deputy from the Howard County Sheriff’s Office found a group of people at the Howard County Courthouse. They apparently entered the building using an access card that was given to them by an elected official. Can you believe that this “official” was not present?! Do you get that? An elected official gave his pass to a group of people to enter the courthouse after hours AND WAS NOT WITH THEM. UNESCORTED!

I am told, nothing inside the courthouse seems to be disturbed, and the group’s presence was limited to the lobby and this elected official’s office. Thankfully.

What might have happened if the deputy had not discovered their presence? Imagine the reams of sensitive documents that could have been exposed? I do not think anyone would want their personal legal matters exposed to the public. What if this group (whoever they are) has sinister purposes – unaccompanied they could have stashed weapons, or physically compromised security systems, or most anything….

What an incredible lack of judgement! And this person is an elected official? I hope they are not after this election.

If they are willing to sacrifice the security of a courthouse are they capable of serving in an office that must do most of it’s business in the courthouse? The Baltimore Sun Howard County Republican Club Howard County Democratic Party Howard County Times Howard County Republicans

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Update: I was informed that this group of trespassers was a film crew. Alarming since recording equipment is not allowed in the courthouse except by permission of the Administrative Judge.

A report must have been filed on this matter.

Security procedure for the court house state; “The Howard County Government issued identification card is utilized as the Circuit Courthouse Employee Identification Card. A laminated photograph identification card shall be issued by the Sheriff’s Office to those employees in the Circuit Court who are not issued a County ID (i.e., Clerk’s Office, Register of Wills, and Law Clerk interns who will be working in the Courthouse).”

Well, interns are not elected officials. So, was the elected official the Clerk of the Courts, or Register of Wills, a judge, the states attorney… What other elected official has a security badge for courthouse access? Will we ever know which elected official betrayed trust, and risked the security of the courthouse?

Posted in Damn Interesting, General, Howard County, Howard County News | 1 Comment »