Each week The Sentinel staff will compile and report on the problems and promises of local, state and federal government officials as they provide us with public information.
We offer “Walls” to those who throw up roadblocks and “Windows” to those who readily provide access.
Montgomery County Public Schools spokesperson Derek Turner said Monday The Sentinel could not photograph or interview the two new associate superintendents because he didn’t want them interacting with media within their first days in office.
“We’re trying to avoid schedules with media requests (for now),” said Turner. “We really want to let them fully settle into their jobs.”
One of his assistants sent photographs of each person.
Turner later said, “We’re not trying to block the Sentinel or anyone in particular but with any new jobs, we let staff settle into a new position.”
Turner proposed a reporter write two questions for each person so he would send the questions to the two new staffers, and try to have the questions answered before deadline or by the following morning. Turner said he limited the reporter to two questions per person because that number would be “easy to answer” in a limited amount of time.
By Tuesday morning, Turner said in an email he had not received responses from the associate superintendents to questions the reporter sent him.
An assistant to Turner sent a response from Dr. Janet Wilson, one of the two new associate superintendents, Wednesday morning but questions though Jonathan Brice, the other new superintendent, did not respond.
Turner said Board of Education President Mike Durso told him the reporter asked two people the same question to see if they had the same story. Turner said the reporter doing this “saddened” him and told her she could only communicate with him through email and that he would arrange a phone call if she asked something he determined could be answered on the phone.
Durso said a reporter acted unprofessionally when she called Durso to verify information given by the PIO. The reporter told Durso it’s her job to verify facts. Durso also requested the reporter schedule all conversations with him through Turner, though in the past he has spoken with Sentinel reporters who called him without speaking with a PIO.
“I think that’s fairly accurate. She had asked about two recently appointed associate superintendents. She wanted to ask what their jobs were and what they were going to be doing and that she had talked to Derek Turner from our communications office. I said to really explain of all of what they’re doing, I thought that might be better coming from the superintendent’s office,” said Durso, adding he found it “sometimes challenging to deal with” the reporter. “I did not appreciate her getting an explanation from Derek and then calling me to confirm what he said to her. I said I did not want to get into that and I said that was unprofessional.”
Comcast spokesperson Jamie Debole responded to a reporter’s question about what caused the outage of Comcast within Montgomery County and Prince George’s County on Monday, saying, “Early today an issue in our network prevented some of our small business customers from making and receiving phone calls.” However, she did not respond to follow-up phone call regarding her email, instead sending an email with an update later that night.
Turner told a reporter requesting the information about the salaries of two associate superintendents to file a Maryland Public Information Act request, which would allow MCPS 10 business days to respond to the request.
However, Turner’s secretary Felicia Yorro sent the reporter a written, signed response from Turner with the answer to her question by later that afternoon.
Peerless Rockville executive director Nancy Pickard received a call from a reporter researching the history of Carver High School, a former school for African American students in Rockville during segregation. Pickard immediately offered files and books for the reporter to review and recommended a source for the reporter to interview, providing her with that person’s phone number.
Rockville Acting Police Chief Bob Rappoport said during a phone call he did not know what happened during a call to the city’s police station during the 911 outage early Monday. However, Rappoport later provided a summary of what happened during the call and statistics about how many phone calls the department received during the same time period in previous weeks.
Montgomery County Council spokesperson Neil Greenberger last week offered previews of the agendas for committee meetings and full Council meetings before the agendas for those meetings were posted online.
Montgomery County Police spokesperson Rick Goodale set up an on-camera interview between The Sentinel’s executive editor and County Police Chief Tom Manger after Manager’s assistant Mary Alice Martus referred a reporter to the public information office within the department. Goodale also directed a reporter to sources who could answer questions about a man’s death.
Montgomery County Public Schools Office of Special Education secretary Linda Fragoso explained the restructuring of associate superintendent Chrisandra Richardson’s department.
Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Kevin Grunwell responded to calls seeking information about a person who died, offering specific information about what happened to cause the death.
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