Digest

August 07, 2007

Elections board to consider request

The Maryland State Board of Elections is weighing whether to post the street addresses of campaign contributors on the Internet, a tool that was briefly available to the public last year but has been removed.

"Seven years ago, the concern was that contributors would object to their personal information and street addresses being on a Web site, and that it would have a chilling effect on contributions," said Ross Goldstein, the board's deputy administrator.

When Maryland began posting campaign contributions online in 2000, a donor's name, city and ZIP code were available without charge.

Donors' house numbers and street names could be obtained in person at the board's office in Annapolis without charge, but the board billed $20 to $100 for electronic or mailed requests, which were mostly made by reporters and political consultants, Goldstein said.

When the University of Maryland, Baltimore County took over Web site maintenance for the board last year, the school began allowing users to download donors' complete addresses for free. Since then, staffers at the elections board have asked UMBC to remove the new information, Goldstein said.

The switch was first reported in Patuxent Publishing Co. newspapers, which are a division of the Baltimore Sun Co. Patuxent has asked the elections board to reconsider, and Goldstein said the board would do so at its meeting Aug. 23.

"The more information we can get out there for the public, the better off we'll be," said Robert L. Walker, chairman of the elections board.

Alice Neff Lucan, a Washington-based media attorney, said that state law prohibits government agencies from charging the public for open records that take less than two hours to produce.

Providing the information, Goldstein said, would not cost the agency additional money.

"This is a policy that's been in effect without controversy for seven years, but it's certainly a question that we're more than happy to take to the board," Goldstein said. "It has been a long time since we've looked at the issue, and we certainly had no sinister motives."

Melissa Harris

Cecil County

: Port Deposit

Death on railroad is ruled a suicide

The death two weeks ago of a Cecil County man who was hit by a train has been ruled a suicide.

John C. Justice III, 28, died July 24 after being hit by a Norfolk Southern train a short walk from his home.

His mother, Shelia Abrams, told the Cecil Whig that she learned of the suicide conclusion last week.

Abrams said her son was addicted to crack cocaine.

The former nurse said, "I remember putting body bags on the table when we learned a drug overdose was coming in. Now it's happened to my own son."

Justice was buried Saturday. In addition to his mother, he is survived by his wife, a 4-year-old daughter and 10 siblings and step-siblings.

Associated Press

Talbot County

: Easton

Sentence reduction denied in homicide

A man serving 30 years in prison for the 2003 strangling of a woman he knew will not get a reduction in his 30-year prison sentence.

The request by Tracy Lamonte Skinner, 34, of Easton to have his sentence reduced was denied Friday by Talbot County Circuit Judge Calvin R. Sanders.

Sanders told Skinner that he is doing well in the prison system but that "I have to consider the full effect of what you did."

Sanders was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Barbara L. Winston, 40.

Skinner confessed to strangling Winston at his uncle's home. "We got to arguing, and I killed her," he said.

Gloria Taylor, Winston's sister, asked the judge not to reduce the sentence.

"The violence of the crime Tracy committed will always be with us," she said.

Associated Press

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