A Couple Of Stories Have Another Side

COMMENT

February 13, 1994|By BRIAN SULLAM

One thing you find out quickly in this job is that there is always another side, and in some cases sides, to every story.

In some instances, the other side is simply a slightly different version of the events, but in other cases the other side contains information that lends a whole different perspective.

There are a number of different stories floating around the community in which, to paraphrase commentator Paul Harvey, the rest of the story needs to be told.

Imagine coming home from a five-day vacation in the sun-drenched Caribbean, picking up the Sunday paper and discovering that some smart-aleck columnist is picking on your business for an insensitive sign on your business' message board.

Then you might understand the position of Gregory Burbelo, the owner of the Carroll County Veterinary Clinic, and his interest in telling his side of my column of Jan. 30.

In front of his building on Route 140 is a sign that Dr. Burbelo uses to place aphorisms and sayings. His intention is to give passing motorists a chuckle.

Last month, he posted this message on his sign: "A critic is a legless man teaching running."

Dr. Burbelo's intent was to make fun of critics, but the message was offensive to disabled people. And I have to reiterate: It was stupid. While a legless man cannot run, he could very well teach someone how to run.

Two days after I wrote the column and made some comments critical of his sign, Dr. Burbelo dropped by my office to tell his side of the story.

An earnest young man, Dr. Burbelo started off by saying he had never spoken with anyone in the media before and was terribly worried that whatever he said would hurt his veterinary business, which he purchased last June from David Booth.

Yes, Dr. Burbelo admitted, he had posted a thoughtless message. He didn't do it intentionally. In fact, he hadn't given the sign much thought until his office received a telephone call from Marilyn J. Phillips of Hampstead, complaining about it.

When she called, Dr. Burbelo was on his roof removing blocks of ice in an effort to uncover a leak. His receptionist relayed Dr. Phillips' complaints to him as soon as he descended from the roof.

After pondering Dr. Phillips' points for a short time, Dr. Burbelo decided she was right and that the message should be removed. The abnormally cold temperatures and heavy precipitation that caused problems for his roof, however, also thwarted his efforts to remove the offensive message. The removable letters were frozen in place; the first two letters he tried to pry lose broke in half. Rather than break all the letters, Dr. Burbelo decided to leave them up temporarily.

Three days later, the temperature finally rose above freezing and he was able to take down the message.

"It wasn't my purpose to harm anyone," Dr. Burbelo said. "I was trying to make fun of critics. I am terribly sorry that I offended anyone."

*

The Maryland State Police raid on Baltimore's Block three weeks ago is another story that apparently requires clarification.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer received some blistering criticism in the wake of the raid about the wisdom of using state police to undertake what many see as basically an urban renewal effort.

Critics said that by eliminating the hustlers, drug dealers and other assorted riff-raff who populate The Block and by closing the seedy bars and sex shops, Mr. Schaefer is doing a big favor for his developer friends who want to erect more downtown office towers.

The truth of that scenario is certainly open to debate. What is not, however, is the assertion that because 20 state troopers assigned to Carroll County were taken on the raid, the citizens of this county were put in jeopardy.

In an editorial, the (Hanover, Pa.) Evening Sun thundered: "With manpower so tight, the image of 20 state troopers from Carroll gallivanting off to the Block to corral alleged criminals prompts plenty of questions. . . . Who was protecting Carroll County while state troopers were tied up with the raid?"

The answer is the same complement of state troopers that would have been on duty had there not been a raid. A call to the Westminster barracks commander, Lt. Roy A. Neigh, might have alleviated some of this unnecessary hand-wringing and worry.

Since he had ample notice of the raid, Lieutenant Neigh adjusted work schedules so that he could assign the required number of troopers to night patrol and still contribute manpower to the Baltimore effort. The troopers assigned to Baltimore were all barracks troopers rather than the county's residential troopers, Lieutenant Neigh said. The taxpayers didn't even have to pay overtime, he said.

It is not unusual for Carroll troopers to be assigned to other jurisdictions. Twelve members of the State Police's northern tactic platoon come from the Westminster barracks. On Feb. 7, when Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse held its large rally in Annapolis, about a dozen Carroll troopers were providing security.

"On a daily basis, we are called upon for manpower," Lieutenant Neigh said. "But on the night of the raid and the night of the rally, we had the same number of troopers patrolling as we did on any other night."

pTC The lesson in all this is that many times there's more to a story than it seems.

Brian Sullam is The Baltimore Sun's editorial writer in Carroll County.

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