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Town decides not to investigate leaks about delinquent utility bills of Commissioner Hooper

Chris Patterson

(8/20/2004) The Town of Thurmont has decided not to investigate the source of leaks to the media regarding delinquent utility bills of town Commissioner Wayne Hooper.

Following Tuesday night's town meeting, the board held a closed session to discuss a request by the town's front office staff to investigate the leaks.

Mayor Martin A. Burns said Wednesday that on the advice of the town's attorney, the board voted unanimously not to investigate the source or sources of the information.

The primary reason, he said, is that all the information in the articles in question, written by The Gazette, was available to the public as a whole.

The Gazette learned in June that the town was conducting an investigation into the overdue water, sewer and electric bills of town Commissioner Wayne Hooper and submitted requests under the Maryland Public Information Act for public records on water, sewer and electric utility delinquencies.

Hooper's bills were paid off in late June, after the investigation was initiated.

During the investigation, the town's attorney was asked to determine if Hooper used the prestige of his office to avoid disconnection of utilities at his home.

The investigation, completed in late July, determined Hooper did nothing wrong and that his electricity was not turned off due to an administrative error.

Burns said the staff made the request because they have been getting some "abuse" by residents angered about the release of the information to the media.

Some residents have suspected the leak came from the town office staff, he said, and the staff wanted to have the investigation done to prove they had nothing to do with it.

Burns said the bottom line was the board decided an investigation into the matter would not be in the best interest of the town.

The request was not approved because there was no allegation that any specific person released the information and all of the information published was public anyway, he said.  

Board discusses grass length ordinance

Earlier Tuesday, during the town meeting, the board again discussed an ordinance to limit the length of grass in town. Currently the ordinance limits the length to 18 inches, but complaints from residents about a few property owners who chronically let the grass get long, led to a proposed change.

At next week's town meeting the board will discuss a plan to limit the length to 10 inches and give a warning for the first offense.

Each time the town intervenes and mows the yard, the town would charge a $50 administrative fee in addition to the cost for mowing.

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