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La Plata's Media Policy Limits Access

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Ambrogio said Mears designed the policy to present his and council members' views "in a more refined way or filtered way."

"Sometimes people do say things, like off-the-cuff type remarks, that later on they regret that they said it," Ambrogio said. "It just gives us an opportunity to respond back through a centralized person.

"I don't think it was intentional to be purposefully shielding us from discussing anything with the media."

When asked what constituents would think of a policy that cushions the town's elected officials from direct questioning from news reporters, Ambrogio distanced himself from the policy.

"The mayor of La Plata, Gene Ambrogio, did not approach the other council members and say, 'I want to implement this policy,' " Ambrogio said. "The town manager, he's the one who came out with this idea."

Ambrogio said he wants to review the policy and might push to repeal it.

"Maybe it's not the perfect solution," Ambrogio said. "It's one of those things where you don't know if it's going to work until you try it. Sometimes things appear to be good in writing, but then they're not workable. It sounded good, let everything go through the town clerk, but in practice, it might not work. I don't know. It's hard to say."

Charles County Commissioners President Wayne Cooper (D-At Large) said he was surprised by La Plata's new media protocol. Contrasting the town and county government practices, Cooper said the county's new press secretary and public information officer help reporters track down information, while commissioners regularly make themselves available for unfiltered interviews with reporters.

"It's the opposite of what we're trying to do," Cooper said. "That's why I'm surprised. I think a lot of criticism that we've received from the citizens was lack of communication, so we have tried very hard to open it up and be more open with the press and with the citizens."

Careful not to directly criticize the town's policy, Cooper said, "The citizens will judge whether it's right or wrong.

"We don't govern the Town of La Plata," Cooper said. "I want to be clear about that. They're incorporated, they have their own elections, and there's a difference with the direction we're taking with county government. We're trying to be more open with the public."

Foundation Adds Member

Ray Wernecke, a lifelong resident of Southern Maryland and the chief operating officer of Cherry Cove development company, has joined the College of Southern Maryland Foundation board.


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