Having recently won a lawsuit, the City of Taneytown is still under the threat of litigation.
Mayor James McCarron Jr. spoke at the city's mayor and council workshop meeting Wednesday to address the lawsuit brought by Robin Frazier, wife of Councilman Donald Frazier, and a potential lawsuit by Donald Frazier that is asking for damages of upward of $5 million.
Robin Frazier sued Taneytown over the Maryland Open Meetings Act, claiming that the city violated the act when it failed to hold an open meeting prior to a closed meeting where the council members discussed the threat of a lawsuit by Donald Frazier, according to previous Times reporting.
While the presiding Judge Lawrence Daniels found that Taneytown failed to give proper notice of the open meeting and failed to list McCarron as attending the meeting. But he determined that the acts were not done willfully, meaning that Taneytown did not have to pay fines.
"While you are certain to hear a spin that her defeat is really a victory, or that the judge and press got it wrong, or an appeal will be taken — I believe the Court has spoken and this matter has been decided," McCarron said in his statement, a copy of which the Times acquired before the meeting.
The council is not perfect, the mayor said in his statement, but they are aiming to do their best for the citizens. By using the legal system to address the Open Meetings Act violation, instead of using other methods, such as the Open Meetings Act compliance board, Robin Frazier cost the city time for the legal proceedings before and after the trials and money for legal fees and expenses. The lawsuit distracted the city "from its true mission — providing for the best interests of its citizens; and perhaps worse of all it has tarnished the image of the place we call Home," McCarron said in the statement.
In reading the statement, the mayor also warned of more potential legal problems the city might face. Donald Frazier's attorney, Daniel Cox, sent the town a letter on July 21 saying that the City Council and mayor have acted in ways that "diminish" his legislative role, his right to free speech, his due process and his employment with the council, according to the letter, which City Attorney Jay Gullo read during the meeting.
The letter listed multiple instances where Cox and Donald Frazier claimed that the city allegedly defamed or attempted to censure Frazier, according to the letter.
"Your actions have caused severe emotional and personal injury to my client Mr. Frazier," according to the letter.
The letter demands that the City Council stops what Cox deems, "illegal actions of censuring and defaming him for his lawful service to the people of Taneytown," reverse any censures on Donald Frazier, retract statements that Cox says are false and defamatory, issue a written apology, and pay damages and attorney fees to Donald Frazier. Attorney fees are $10,000 and damages are $5 million, according to the letter.
"This demand is open until 12:01 a.m. July 28, 2017 at which time it is withdrawn," according to the letter.
This is the second letter Cox has written to the council on behalf of Donald Frazier about the alleged defamation and censures, according to the letter.
During public comment, city residents questioned the council about the potential litigation and the lawsuit that was decided in court. City Manager Henry Heine, in response to one of the questions, said that Robin Frazier's lawsuit has cost the city at least $8,000, but that does not count May or June 2017.
Katherine Adelaide, who testified during Robin Frazier's lawsuit on Frazier's behalf, presented the council with a draft of a resolution to censure the council members whom she said violated the Open Meetings Act. In her resolution, Adelaide said the council members violated the act four times, but Daniels said the council members only had two technical violations.
Donald Frazier added the resolution to new business and said that he would introduce it on Monday, saying that he was censured without breaking the law. McCarron responded by saying that it was the council's opinion that he did break the law and the judge found that the council did not willfully violate the Open Meetings Act.