OC To Begin Charging For Phone, Radio Records

OCEAN CITY – With telephone records recently revealing questionable activity among City Council members, a policy was approved this week to charge for the release of records as well as in certain cases be reviewed by the city’s attorney for approval.

According to Emergency Services Director Joseph Theobald, during budget hearings he had proposed the town implement a more formal policy for the disclosure of telephone and radio records out of the Ocean City’s Public Safety Communications Center in compliance with Maryland law and the Maryland Public Information Act.

“We get a great number of public requests for recordings on an annual basis and right now we do not have a formal policy,” Theobald said.

Theobald proposed that all general public requests for telephone or radio records be submitted in writing to the director of the Ocean City Department of Emergency Services at a minimum of 10 days and maximum of 30 days to research and process the records requested.

A service fee of $40 will be charged for each incident and payment must accompany the initial request and will be required before any research and or production of records leaving the custody of the department.

“This is consistent with most policies in most municipalities,” Theobald said.

Councilman Doug Cymek supported the proposal but wondered if $40 covered the time put into researching requested records.

Theobald responded that under the Maryland Public Information Act the department is responsible for the first two hours of research and that the $40 is estimated to cover the remainder of the time to complete the investigation.

The proposal also included that an affidavit will accompany the records indicating that it is a true and correct copy, was made in the regular course of business and made simultaneously with receipt of the call and that it is the practice of the Public Safety Communications Center to make such recordings and documents.

Emergency Medical Services calls, documents or tapes containing medical information will not be released without a written court order or a written and signed authorization from the injured party.

Police assistance calls, documents or tapes will also not be disclosed to any individuals other than the investigating law enforcement agency or the appropriate State’s Attorney, pending review to determine whether or not disclosure would be inappropriate.

Once initial requirements have been met, the release of records requested by the media will be reviewed by City Solicitor Guy Ayres, who will confer with the appropriate State’s Attorney or investigating officer to determine if any release will interfere with any ongoing investigation. The city solicitor will then advise the Emergency Services director as to the disposition of the record.

The Dispatch has requested phone records twice since early 2011 by contacting City Clerk Kelly Allmond, who then emailed the records to the newspaper.

The most recent telephone record request was made in mid-April when Councilman Joe Hall personally contacted a candidate for the city manager position resulting in the selection process being questioned and new City Manager David Recor’s identity being revealed.

The city proposal stated no one will be permitted to enter the Public Safety Communications Center to obtain a record. The rules may be waived or adjusted by the Emergency Services director for good cause shown and requests from Ocean City Police Department or Ocean City Fire Department personnel shall be processed according to internal policy and procedures.

The council voted unanimously to approve the policy of releasing telephone or radio records as proposed.