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Protest on sex offender's involvement in Havre de Grace Seafood Festival stops council vote

Visitors lined up for food at the 2015 Havre de Grace Seafood Festival in August. On Monday night, the Havre de Grace City Council declined to vote on the festival's 2016 application after at least 15 people protested the continued involvement in the festival of Charles Maslin, who was convicted of child sexual abuse in 1999.
Visitors lined up for food at the 2015 Havre de Grace Seafood Festival in August. On Monday night, the Havre de Grace City Council declined to vote on the festival's 2016 application after at least 15 people protested the continued involvement in the festival of Charles Maslin, who was convicted of child sexual abuse in 1999. (AEGIS FILE PHOTO / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The fate of next year's Havre de Grace Seafood Festival is up in the air after residents complained to the City Council Monday about Lori and Charles "Chuck" Maslin's involvement with the event.

The City Council refused to entertain a motion to approve the festival for 2016, leaving the festival's future in limbo.

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At least 15 people came out to protest the event and to urge the council not to approve the 36th annual festival, on Aug. 12-14, 2016, which was set to be voted on at Monday's meeting.

The group was led by Kayli Veres, who also spearheaded a protest at this summer's festival because Charles Maslin, who runs an ice cream truck at the event, was convicted of child sexual abuse in 1999.

More than a dozen people handed out literature about Charles A. Maslin III, a 58-year-old food and ice cream truck operator who was convicted in 1999 of child sex abuse.

Mayor Bill Martin asked for a motion to approve next year's festival, but no one among the six council members would offer one and thus no action was taken.

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Before the council declined to act, Lori Maslin got into a heated debate with the protesters, leading to them and Maslin testifying back and forth during the public comment period in an attempt to debunk each other's claims.

Residents said they were concerned about their children's safety and claimed Maslin's truck blocked the entrance to Tydings Park, where the festival is held.

They said the city should not give financial support or attach its name to an event partly run by a convicted sex offender, although Martin explained the city offers a police presence at all events where it is deemed necessary and the festival is run as a non-profit.

Lori Maslin, meanwhile, said she was being unfairly singled out by the protesters and warned the council that bowing to the protesters would "open up a whole big can of worms."

"I am not quite sure why this one event is being picked on. I'm not sure it's really about my husband," she said, adding there are many other sex offenders in the city who are not being targeted.

From left, Keri Kateley of Aberdeen, and Debi Callaghan and Debbie Phelan of Havre de Grace hand out fliers regarding Charles Maslin near the festival at Tydings Park in Havre de Grace on Friday, August 7.
From left, Keri Kateley of Aberdeen, and Debi Callaghan and Debbie Phelan of Havre de Grace hand out fliers regarding Charles Maslin near the festival at Tydings Park in Havre de Grace on Friday, August 7. (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun)

"We are very cognizant of the concerns of the community, legitimate concerns," she continued. "What I call these folks, with all due respect, [is] a witch hunt."

Maslin said her husband has served his time, and "I am not going to apologize that we are successful."

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To the council, she said: "If you would like to refuse our event, which is a community event... then you are going to have to look at the employees of every single event and vendor that comes to this town."

She and her husband have run the event, with everyone legally operating, for 27 years, and she said canceling the event would only hurt Havre de Grace, not them personally.

"You are hurting everybody but us. You are hurting the City of Havre de Grace," she said. "We are not hiding. The Seafood Festival is an event that has benefited the City of Havre de Grace for 35 years and I really hope we have a 36th."

Heather Young, one of the protesters, replied that if the council denied the Maslins oversight of the Seafood Festival, she could put together a committee with a "huge backing" to run the festival under different leadership.

"We could put together an event that is just as successful as the Maslin Seafood Festival," she said.

Alicia Martinak, another resident, claimed Maslin initially told her she was not allowed to enter the park with protest signs and Maslin yelled at her.

Martinak said she believes people are intimidated by Maslin and warned the council: "You are attaching the name of Havre de Grace to the name of a known child sex offender."

At the Seafood Festival in August, the protesters handed out fliers warning attendees about Chuck Maslin's participation.

Veres noted Maslin's record had been expunged, as the offenses for which he was convicted happened between 1978 and 1982. Last year, the Maryland Court of Appeals ordered the state to remove the names of offenders who committed crimes before the sex offender registry was created in 1995.

Maslin disputed the claim and added that 12 vendors are willing to start a class action suit against the city, to which those in the audience yelled out that she was threatening them.

Martin interrupted the arguments, saying that everyone has a right to speak and warning attendees to let everyone speak in turn.

"This is a respectful conversation," he said. "This cannot turn into 'The Jerry Springer Show.' If this gets out of hand, I will gavel you."

Several other residents, including newly-appointed Tree Commission member Kathleen O'Brien, also decided to speak out.

O'Brien said she has two children and is concerned about Maslin's participation, as she also had a sex offender living on her street.

"If the facts are there, I do agree that we probably don't want to put that as our face on the community," she said about the city's name being on the festival.

After the meeting, Martin said he was unsure if the Seafood Festival could send in a different application or perhaps still be voted on at a later time.

Nevertheless, he said the council's decision to let the application die "was a clear message."

"I just think the council listened very carefully to what the people in the audience had to say," Martin said, adding the Festival controversy is "a very tough subject."

"The council needs to reflect the will of the citizens," he said.

Christina Jedra, of The Baltimore Sun, contributed to this article.

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