The Harford County administration has removed a tape of County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann's most recent public speak-out from the Harford Cable Network schedule after only one airing and says it has been destroyed.
The speak-out, at which the executive was vehemently criticized by a handful of people, was held Jan. 25 at Prospect Mill Elementary School and was aired on local cable Channel 15 two days later.
While the network had scheduled the tape to be rebroadcast Thursdays in February, it was not shown last week, and the administration says it won't be shown again.
"It was my decision," said George Harrison, spokesman for the executive and executive producer of the speak-outs. "The speak-outs were designed to be a question-and-answer period for the public, not a political forum for people with a political agenda."
Ronald M. Szczybor on Thursday sent a complaint about the tape's removal to the County Council, which oversees the cable network.
In his letter to Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson, Mr. Szczybor said that he and others had spoken out against Mrs. Rehrmann at the public event and that "several" of their comments had been "edited out" of the broadcast he watched two days later.
Mr. Szczybor, who has stated that he intends to run against Mrs. Rehrmann for county executive, called the speak-outs "a sham."
Mr. Harrison admitted that he edited the tape to fit the hourlong slot, but said that "little more than one minute" of actual talking was cut.
Mr. Wilson said that he was "very disturbed" over Mr. Szczybor's charges and that "if what the complaint says is true, it's a gross abuse of the public access channel."
He said the council would be looking further into the question of accountability.
"My concern is this tape was allegedly doctored to make the county executive look good, and when it didn't look good enough, it was deep-sixed," he said.
Mr. Harrison said he does not routinely pick up the county's tapes from Harford Cable Network after a speak-out has been aired and admitted that this was the first time a speak-out was aired only once and the tape retrieved.
The speak-outs started in September 1991 as periodic forums for the county executive to reach the public and have always been taped by Harford Cable Network.
Mr. Harrison said that, starting in March, the speak-outs will move to Harford Mall, where citizens will be able to address the county executive "one on one."