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Judge: County Complies Reasonably

More legal proceedings loom in Brickyard farm-to-soccer controversy.

— Circuit Court Judge Ronald B. Rubin put the county on a specific timetable earlier this summer to execute a freedom of information request.

He ordered the county to give the Brickyard Coalition documents, emails, and plans from 15 county employees the Coalition believes have been involved with the soccer project on Brickyard Road.

“My goal is to get it done, my goal is to get the county to get it done,” he said.

The Brickyard Coalition and West Montgomery County Citizens Association filed the Freedom of Information lawsuit in Montgomery County Circuit Court last November.

The county conducted numerous data base searches and handed over thousands of documents to the Brickyard Coalition this past month.

“Given the scope of the request of the plaintiffs, I find the county’s response to the original request was reasonable,” Judge Rubin said.

On Tuesday, Sept. 25, Judge Rubin ruled that the county complied with the Brickyard Coalition’s freedom of information request, and ordered that the Brickyard Coalition pay the county $11,700 for the cost in executing the request.

Judge Rubin called the Coalition’s request for a search of approximately two-dozen county employees over a period more than five years “massive.” He ruled that the county’s efforts to locate and turn over documents “reasonable.”

“I understand why folks may feel if they don’t get everything they get in the first place … they may be skeptical,” Judge Rubin said last week. “That’s not a fair inference to draw from this.”

MEANWHILE, in a different court case, Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Greenberg issued a stay on Aug. 14.

“That’s not a fair inference to draw from this.” — Judge Ronald B. Rubin

Nick Maravell’s attorney, James L. Parsons, successfully asked the Circuit Court of Montgomery County at a hearing earlier that same day to permit him to stay on the land while legal challenges are pending.

Greenberg’s order stopped county plans to force Nick Maravell off 20 acres on Brickyard Road in August. Maravell has leased the property from Montgomery County Public Schools for more than 30 years, operating an organic farm.

In March 2011, neighbors and civic organizations in Potomac learned that County Executive Isiah Leggett had already decided, without public input or notice, to take control of the 20-acre school property on Brickyard Road to turn it over to a private organization for development into soccer fields.

Civic organizations say that the county violated the public’s right to have access to information about the government’s affairs concerning the conversion of Brickyard Road farm site into soccer fields.

Local and organic food proponents have also worked to preserve the organic farm.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture has certified the farm as organic, which it has been since 1986.

Legal hearings are expected to resume in that case later this year.

Gov. Martin O’Malley wrote County Executive Isiah Leggett and Board of Education President Shirley Brandman on Sunday Aug. 12.

“I believe we are about to make a big mistake,” O’Malley wrote.

“I understand that these issues are the subject of litigation, and it is not my intent to express any view on the legal merits of the case. However, on policy grounds, there are significant and compelling reasons to preserve this farm for the benefit of the children of Montgomery County,” O’Malley wrote.

In his letter, O’Malley suggested the mission of the newly established Brickyard Road Educational Farm shows promise for what the farm could mean for students.

“Rather than moving our State backwards through this destructive policy choice, Montgomery County can and should be a leader,” said O’Malley. “The vital connection between our farms, the food we eat, and our children’s future has never been more important than it is right now.”