End `Yellow Journalism`
Since November 1998, St. Mary's County citizens have been bombarded with a story over 35 years old. It concerns the state's attorney, Richard Fritz, and the editor of St. Mary's Today newspaper, Kenneth Rossignol. The editor has peddled this story to anyone willing to listen, pushing yellow journalism to its limits.
This story was published three consecutive weeks prior to the election and then sensationalized the night before the election. The headline read "Richard Fritz Guilty of Rape" -- making it seem as though it had just happened instead of 35 years prior when Fritz was a teenager. Court records show that Fritz was not guilty of rape. This sensational headline was apparently meant to sway the voters to vote against Fritz. But as fate would have it, a group of St. Mary's County citizens decided that enough was enough and bought most of the copies of this newspaper. But the story didn't stop there.
Because Fritz won the election for state's attorney, Rossignol made it his daily routine to go ahead and keep pounding this story at the public with more and more sensational headlines. He appeared on the evening news, the morning news, in newspaper articles and expects to be on "20/20" sometime in the future.
Rossignol filed a complaint with the Maryland State Police regarding what he called a sweep of his newspapers. He filed complaints with the attorney general of Maryland and the FBI saying his civil rights were violated. In America, how can the purchasing of any item that is for sale violate anything? Nowhere on the cover of St. Mary's Today newspaper does it state only one to a customer.
There are several very disturbing facets to this story. First, a St. Mary's County woman, whose story for the most part was unknown to the general public, had her name dragged through the muck and mire, apparently at her request, according to the tabloid. Thirty-five years earlier the courts had respected her right to privacy. One wonders what really motivated her to come forward and embellish the story.
Second, why is Rossignol so determined to undermine the state's attorney office, the sheriff's office and the men and women deputies by trying to get them fired? If the deputies bought these newspapers on their own time, they didn't do anything more than you and I would do if a story were printed about us that was inflammatory and derogative. . . .
Finally, we the American taxpayers are footing the bill for this frivolous investigation by the FBI, the grand jury and the courts. The amount of money being spent on countless man-hours by the FBI doing interviews, tailing witnesses, subpoenaing records and the like could be better spent fighting real crime. I understand that the FBI must investigate all claims of civil rights violations. Do these deputies have any civil rights, freedom to protest, freedom of expression, freedom to buy what is for sale?
Rossignol needs to stop this campaign . . . and start on a course of positive reporting. . . . Now is the time to put this tired story to bed after 35 years and get on with the more important things going on in St. Mary's County. Remember, to err is human, to forgive divine.
MARGIT K. MILLER
A Grateful Family
We suffered a terrible loss on May 25: our beautiful daughter, Julie. Needless to say, our lives have been changed forever. . . . The days have been filled with so many different emotions -- sadness, anger and unending questions. But the days have also been filled with people like you, our wonderful friends and family. . . . We have just been overwhelmed by the enormous number of wonderful people who have called, sent a card, a meal, a plant or lovely flowers. Also, those who have come by to see us or who have taken time in another special way to show care and kindness. To all of you who have touched our lives in a special, loving way, Jamie, Jon and I would like to say thank you. . . . Your hugs and smiles and caring words do make a difference and they do mean a lot. Your support on a day-to-day basis has helped each of us along. . . .
We will be forever grateful for such wonderful friends, family and this great community of Calvert where we live.
NANCY, JAMIE and JON COX
Editor's note: Julie Cox, a 14-year-old freshman at Calvert High School, died of injuries suffered in a May 25 auto accident in St. Leonard.
Official Says He Was Silenced
My proposals for a county income tax rate reduction and term limits for county commissioners were unsuccessful when voted on during the commissioners' report session at our county commissioners' meetings. After that, the president of our Board asked the other commissioners, during an executive session if memory serves correct, if the commissioners would refrain from introducing motions during commissioners' report time. It was felt that it would be better to add items to the agenda for discussion, and then vote on them if we wanted. I agreed to the request with the understanding that I would be able to add items to the agenda for discussion and consideration.
I recently tried to add items to the agenda but I was blocked by three commissioners, which constitutes a majority of the voting members. While I certainly support requiring a majority of support to pass legislation, I feel that requiring majority support just to add something to the agenda for consideration is not fair to the citizens who elected all five of us as five equal members of the Board. I believe we were all elected to present ideas, maybe some good ideas, maybe some bad, but at least all of the commissioners should have the opportunity to put the issues forward for debate and then let's vote it up or down. . . .
If the new Board's policy is not changed, then I withdraw the support I made to limit a commissioner's ability to make a motion on a new issue during commissioners' report, or at any time for that matter. If necessary, I will take this matter to the Maryland legislature and the attorney general for a ruling. It seems to me that the president of our Board, and two others, should not be able to silence two other county commissioners from participating in the legislative process. . . . The voters who elected all of us need to have equal representation on a Board comprised of diverse, but equal, county commissioners.
JOHN DOUGLAS PARRAN
Calvert County Commissioner
Proud to Pray
In Sunday's [July 4] Southern Maryland Extra, I see you are still printing letters about the graduation at Northern High School. This must be the most-discussed graduation of this century. My guess is that in 1901 every high school graduation in the United States had a prayer of thanks to God. In 1999 we have a prayer and it is the talk of the country. If this is considered an improvement, God help us all. . . .
On Wednesday, May 26, I had the pleasure of attending the graduation ceremony of Northern High School when my grandson . . . graduated. Prior to the ceremony, I was listening to the radio, WMAL. They had Julie Schenk on the air. She was to give the invocation and had intended to offer up a prayer. A student objected. She was then told (as noted in The Washington Post) by the ACLU and the state attorney general she could not offer up the prayer and . . . she compromised and instead requested 30 seconds of silence to meditate. The personnel at WMAL thought this was great, that this would not offend anyone. Also, in their opinion, this met the Constitution's separation of church and state. I was furious. What about her constitutional rights? Nowhere does it say you cannot practice your religion if it offends someone. . . .
I believe the Supreme Court ruled out prayer in school when led by the teacher. This would seem to fit in with what the Constitution says, but a student is not part of the government and her First Amendment rights were denied her when she was told she could not exercise her freedom of religion and also her right to free speech. . . .
So, while listening to the radio I wondered what I could do that night. Someone suggested on the radio that someone at a gathering asked everyone in the audience to take a quarter out of their pocket and read the small letters "In God We Trust." With no microphone, I knew this would have no effect. I thought of hollering out "Thank You Lord," but I knew in my heart I would not cause a commotion and just sit there and say a silent prayer. . . .
My God, the people who wrote the Constitution and the hundreds of thousands who died defending it must be rolling over in their graves.
Be that as it may, I attended the graduation that night and when Julie Schenk asked for that moment of silence, I could not believe my ears. Someone, it sounded like it started in the back of the audience, started to recite the "Our Father." It immediately spread throughout the entire audience, and I proudly joined in and exercised my First Amendment rights. The prayer was followed by a big round of applause. Now, that was an inspiration. . . . I only hope that this spreads across the nation at every school function. The people are finally demanding their constitutional rights. Thanks to the people of Calvert County -- for the first time in at least 6 1/2 years I was proud to be an American.
Appreciates Sport Physicals
The collaborative efforts of the Charles County Public Schools, Maryland Healthcare Associates of Waldorf and the Charles County Health Department recently made it possible for nearly 318 student athletes to receive affordable sports physicals for school year 1999-2000.
On behalf of Charles County Public Schools, I would like to thank Dr. [H.M.] Haft, the doctors, the physician assistants and the nurse practitioners of Maryland Healthcare Associates for the donation of their time to provide this service to our students. I would also like to thank Phylis Reinard and the Charles County Health Department and the nurses who worked to provide the doctors with the support needed to make this activity successful.
These health care providers made it possible for all students to have the opportunity to obtain affordable physicals. . . .
RONALD E. STOVER
Charles County Public Schools