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Only clerk can certify transcripts, judge says


Residents hoping to save time and money on their appeal of the protracted Waverly Woods zoning case cannot do it by transcribing the testimony themselves, Howard Circuit Court Judge Cornelius F. Sybert Jr. has ruled.

Jean Iampieri Quattlebaum, Peter Burdette and Robert Donohue, who are appealing the Waverly case on behalf of a group called Citizens Allied for Rational Expansion, had wanted a person of their choosing to do the transcript.

The county contended before Judge Sybert on July 2 that only Zoning Board clerk Robin Regner or her designate can do the transcribing -- an after-hours labor Ms. Regner estimated would cost about $10,000.

Ms. Quattlebaum and the other appellants told Judge Sybert they could have the transcription done by someone else at about half the cost.

Cost is irrelevant, Deputy County Solicitor Paul T. Johnson said. He told the judge that the Zoning Board's rules of procedure require that the clerk be responsible for transcriptions. She can either do the work herself or contract it out, but she must certify that the transcripts are valid, Mr. Johnson said.

Judge Sybert agreed. In a three-page memorandum and order issued July 15, he said the Zoning Board's rules "require that the appealing party request and pay for the cost of providing a transcript of testimony," and that according to the Maryland Rules of Procedure, those costs must be paid in advance.

"Allowing the appellants to prepare the transcript themselves . . . [is] not in accordance with the Howard County Zoning Board's Rules of Procedure and [is] not permitted by law," Judge Sybert said.

Thomas E. Dernoga, an attorney for Ms. Quattlebaum and the citizens' group, argued unsuccessfully that the fact that Ms. Regner does the transcripts on her own time and sets her own fee for doing them makes her an independent contractor. Even if she farms most of the work out, her control of the process gives "an air of impropriety," Mr. Dernoga said.

Mr. Dernoga also objected to the amount of time Ms. Regner said she would need to make the transcripts -- about four months. He told Judge Sybert the citizens group could get the work done in 30 to 45 days for about $2,000 to $4,000. A quick turnaround time is essential, he said, since the Waverly case is being appealed.

Mr. Johnson said the fees Ms. Regner charges are "not out of line," and are cheaper than some other clerks charge.

During the July 2 hearing, Judge Sybert said court clerks do the same thing Ms. Regner does. He said he assumed zoning clerks in other counties also do likewise and asked Mr. Dernoga if he knew of practices elsewhere.

Mr. Dernoga said he believes Prince George's County allows appellants to contract with anyone for transcripts.

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