Last month, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's office gave The Baltimore Sun a list of everyone in the mayor's office with a city-issued BlackBerry, iPhone or other kind of smartphone paid by taxpayers.
The list, provided in response to a public records request, had 61 names. One notable missing name: Rawlings-Blake's. That was puzzling, given the 24/7 nature of her job. Later, Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, whose office distributes city smartphones, gave us a different list showing a BlackBerry Bold issued to "Mayor 1." Maybe that was the mayor's?
We asked City Hall whether Rawlings-Blake had a city smartphone. And asked. And asked again.
After a couple of weeks, the mayor's press secretary, Ian Brennan, sent us a statement containing this line: "As most reporters know, the mayor uses a city-issued BlackBerry, which is commonplace for many public officials at all levels of government, local, state and federal, for the last decade."
So why wasn't she on the mayor's office list? We asked that, too, and another spokesman, Ryan O'Doherty, explained that someone in the office had misunderstood that The Sun's request included the mayor.
Our request was part of an attempt to learn whether and to what degree Rawlings-Blake and her inner circle discuss city business via BlackBerry. We wondered about their use of device-to-device "pinning," so-called because messages are routed by a device's personal identification number or PIN.
We filed a similar request for such messages sent to and by Gov. Martin O'Malley and several of his advisers in Annapolis. Both requests were sent at 3 p.m. Oct. 23. Both asked for the prior week's messages, as well as any that were on the devices at the precise time of the request.
A month later, Liz Harris of the governor's Office of Legal Counsel told us it would cost $478 to get the information. The state wouldn't waive the fee, she said, because we didn't specify subject matter, making it unclear whether the information would "benefit the public or be a matter of public interest." We're still seeking a waiver.
Meanwhile, the city handed over just a few messages involving Robert Maloney, deputy chief of emergency management and public safety. There were none for the mayor or five high-ranking officials, including chief of staff Alex Sanchez, all of whom have city-issued BlackBerrys.
Could it be there were zero PIN messages or BlackBerry Messenger messages on any of their phones? No messages sent or received over the preceding week?
Brennan's email said the city provided "responsive records," adding: "The Mayor's Office and agency heads are strongly discouraged from using PINs to conduct official city business — that's our policy."