An aide to Prince George's County Executive Lawrence Hogan supplied the names of some 35 people who telephoned their views to Hogan about the county's cable television franchise award to a citizens' group intent on overturning the franchise.
The group, Citizens Against Backroom Legislation (CABL), is trying to put the issue of the cable award on the ballot in November. For the cable issue to appear on the ballot, CABL must submit the signatures of 10,000 registered voters to the Board of Elections by Monday. CABL President Timothy S. Williams said he asked for the callers' names to solicit their help in the petition drive.
Previously, Hogan said he was neutral on the cable referendum issue. "We're taking a hands-off attitude," said Hogan's son, spokeman and aide, Lawrence Hogan Jr. Late yesterday, however, the younger Hogan reversed himself, saying, "I gave you some wrong information. He the county executive has taken a position in favor of it and in fact has signed the petition. I didn't realize it."
Williams said he received the callers' names and phone numbers, culled from the telephone logs maintained in the executive's office, from Lawrence Hogan Jr. sometime in December.
The cable controversy dates back to November when the County Council bypassed the recommendations of a citizens's commission and an independent consultant and awarded the franchise to Storer Cable Communications Inc. in the northern part of the county, and MetroVision of Prince George's County in the south. Storer was represented by former county executive Winfield Kelly.
Hogan vetoed both awards after a week's deliberation, but the council overrode his veto. CABL was formed soon after, vowing to take the northern franchise to the voters.
The younger Hogan said he did not remember giving the names to Williams, but did authorize the action. "We do it every single day," Hogan said. "If someone calls and says they have a pothole, we send their name to Public Works. . .If someone says it's disgusting and terrible what the council did, we refer them to the citizens' initiative. If they had said we think it's great and wonderful, we would have referred them to former council chairman Parris Glendening a supporter of the franchise award . But we didn't get too many calls like that."
One of the Hogan callers who was contacted by the CABL group, Robert Jenkins of Suitland, said he was disturbed by the call because he has an unlisted phone number. Jenkins also said that the caller, Sherry Specht of College Park, said she was from the county executive's office. Specht denies this and said she simply told Jenkins that she got his name from the executive's telephone file.
Another of those called, Edward Schiesser of Hyattsville, agreed to carry petitions after the call. "If Larry Hogan gave them my name, so be it," Schiesser said.
Kelly, a former county executive and now a vice president with Storer, said he was surprised that Hogan would release the names of callers for a "political activity. It just doesn't seem appropriate."
William Gullett, a Republican and the county executive who preceded Kelly, also said he could not remember releasing the names and telephone numbers of his callers.
CABL already had submitted 5,100 signatures to the board in January. Those signatures were thrown out as invalid because of the wording of the petition. CABL has filed a lawsuit to force the board to veify those signatures, but the hearing is not until March 2. The group is organizing a major effort to collect the remainder of the necessary signatures this weekend, Williams said.