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The original item was published from 4/4/2014 2:31:16 PM to 5/18/2014 12:05:00 AM.

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Posted on: April 4, 2014

[ARCHIVED] A Message to Town of Chevy Chase Residents from Mayor Pat Burda

Dear Neighbors,

I am writing to address some of the negative things you may have seen in the press recently about the Town Council’s actions in connection with the Purple Line.

The Council stated this past winter that it was unanimous in its opposition to the Purple Line as currently planned. There are many other options for the Purple Line that will be more affordable, safer, cause less noise and environmental disturbance, and improve transportation options in the region all without trampling the rights of our residents and destroying a beloved regional trail.

We recognize, however, that there are some in the larger community, and within the Town itself, who do not agree with our position. We respect the fact that reasonable minds can differ on such a matter. Unfortunately, the recent press stories reflect a campaign by proponents of the Purple Line who will tolerate no dissent on the topic and have demonstrated that they will harass those who disagree with them.

Several months ago, I met with the now-former executive director for Action Committee for Transit (ACT) in an effort to try to tone down their negative attacks on the Town. I was told that, if the Town continued to fight the Purple Line’s current alignment, ACT would “come after us with all they had.” And that is exactly what is happening.

In February, ACT filed a Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) request to see all correspondence between Town officials and Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney (BIR), the firm assisting the Town in responding to the proposed Purple Line project. Around the same time, ACT filed a complaint with the State’s Open Meetings Compliance Board regarding a Council executive session meeting on November 26, 2013. The complaint was apparently intended to force the Town to reveal private discussions regarding the Purple Line to the Town’s opponents.

The complaint alleged that it was improper to conduct such discussions in a non-public executive session. The Open Meetings Compliance Board rejected this claim—the centerpiece of the complaint—and agreed that the Council was, in fact, permitted to discuss in executive session the topics that ACT insisted should have been discussed in public. The Board did identify technical procedural requirements we should adhere to when convening executive sessions. It was these technicalities—not that certain matters were inappropriately discussed in closed session—that formed the basis for ACT’s inflammatory press release that the Town “broke the law.”

The Town will, of course, comply with these procedural requirements in the future. I do, however, want to assure our residents that we were adhering to the law regarding the substantive issues of the complaint.

Immediately following ACT’s press release, it issued another MPIA request asking for additional correspondence between the Town’s representatives and BIR, as well as other firms representing the Town. ACT also has issued a MPIA request to review all records of Town compliance with the training requirements of the State’s Open Meetings Act. As our recent press release stated, rather than engaging on the merits of the proposed Purple Line, ACT is engaging in distractions. We will continue to comply with their requests, and of course with the law, but we find their tactics to reflect badly upon them and ultimately marginalize their overall mission.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and please feel free to call me if you have any questions about the Town’s actions.

Pat Burda

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