Montgomery judge dismisses suit against county over ambulance fee fliers

Both sides of the hotly contested debate over County Question A: Emergency Medical Services Transport Fee make their final cases to Montgomery County voters.
By Michael Laris
Monday, November 1, 2010; 8:51 PM

A Montgomery County judge said on Monday that a county-produced campaign flier advocating ambulance fees was designed to intimidate voters, but he dismissed a suit challenging government campaign efforts because he ruled it was filed one day late.

The government flier says blocking the fee could result in: "Longer Response Times for Ambulances" and "Increased Risk for Our Families and Property," among other things.

"This is not an attempt to do anything other than, in some ways, frankly, intimidate people and get them to vote for the ambulance fee," Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Greenberg said.

Greenberg ruled that there is a 10-day statute of limitations for voters to challenge such disputed election activities after they learn about them. That would have been last Thursday, he said, but the suit was filed Friday. Greenberg did not address the question of whether county campaign activities in recent days and weeks have been legal, as the county says. County officials say fee opponents have sought to intimidate voters with their literature.

Most of the county's 900 operational fire and rescue personnel have been working to educate the public about the ambulance fee, Montgomery Fire Chief Richard Bowers said. "I don't like the word 'campaign,' to be honest with you," he said. Firefighters will reach out to voters Tuesday as well, he said.

On Sunday night, county and city police received a report of an assault at the Gaithersburg Washington-Grove Volunteer Fire Department, said Gaithersburg Officer Dan Lane. After a career firefighter put a pro-ambulance fee banner on the front a ladder truck, the firefighter said a volunteer grabbed and pushed him as he sought to tear it down.

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