Editor’s Note: This is the first in what is anticipated to be a series of stories on this matter. A follow up story will be written following the filing of a response by the defendants in this case.
ELKTON — A lawsuit filed Saturday by Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy against candidate and Republican primary winner Danielle Hornberger and the Cecil County Board of Elections asks for Hornberger to be removed from the ballot for the Nov. 3 general election due to the alleged fraudulent filing of a campaign financial disclosure form and that McCarthy, with the second highest vote total, should be declared the winner.
The lawsuit specifically alleges that Hornberger filed a certificate of candidacy for the Republican nomination for county executive in Cecil County on Nov. 5, 2019. At that time, pursuant to Cecil County Ethics Code section 39-23B, Hornberger was also required to file a financial disclosure statement.
The lawsuit further asserts that pursuant to Cecil County Ethics Code section 39-23E, the county clerk or the board of election supervisors may not accept any certificate of candidacy unless a financial disclosure statement has been filed in its proper form. By not filing such a certificate, Hornberger’s candidacy was void from the start, the complaint alleges and she should have never been on the ballot for Cecil County executive for the June 2 primary election.
The complaint asserts that McCarthy recently discovered the lack of the proper form after a search by the Cecil County Department of Human Resources, who act as the custodian of records for such documents. According to the complaint, the DHR was unable to find a financial disclosure statement from the relevant timeframe. The complaint further asserts that the DHR reached out to the clerk of the circuit court and the board of elections to see if either had received a financial disclosure statement and was informed that neither were in possession of a file statement by Hornberger.
The complaint then asserts that the Deputy Director for the Cecil County Board of Elections Lora Walters communicated with Hornberger and “unexpectedly” a financial disclosure statement signed by Hornberger on Nov. 5, 2019 appeared. That form was then filed with DHS onJuly 7, according to the complaint.
The complaint further asserts that Walters came back upstairs to the DHS offices one and a half hours later with another copy of Hornberger’s financial disclosure form that included a time and date stamp by the BOE of Nov. 5, 2019 at 11:37 a.m. The complaint notes that one statement has a time stamp of July 7, 2020 at 11:10 a.m., while the other has a time stamp of July 7, 2020 at 12:32 p.m.
The complaint alleges that the time and date stamp machine used by the BOE is a manual machine and can therefore be manipulated to change the date and time.
The complaint further asserts that the financial disclosure statement signed by Hornberger did not even exist on Nov. 5, 2019 as the form was changed by the Cecil County Ethics Commission during a meeting on Nov. 18, 2019. The new form came into existence in December of 2019, the complaint asserts.
The complaint asserts that the filing of this form, with a date of Nov. 5, 2019 constitutes a fraud committed upon the BOE, DHR and Cecil County and that Hornberger should be disqualified for the filing of the form.
In addition, the complaint alleges that there is email correspondence between Hornberger and Walters and that those emails have been forwarded to the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office for investigation.
Based upon information received by the Cecil Whig, Walters is no longer employed by the BOE. The BOE’s website now lists Karen Perry as the acting deputy director for the BOE.
The complaint requests that a declaratory judgement be entered that Hornberger’s candidacy is void and that she be removed from the Nov. 2020 election and declared illegally unqualified. The complaint also requests, that McCarthy, as the second highest receiver of votes in the June 2 Republican primary election be declared the winner.
In addition to declaratory relief, the complaint also asks for a writ of mandamus to declare Hornberger’s candidacy void from the beginning. The complaint also makes claims for intentional misrepresentation against both Hornberger and the BOE as well as tortious interference with prospective advantage.
The suit is also seeking a temporary, preliminary and permanent injunction to remove Hornberger from the Nov. 2020 ballot and declaring that her candidacy never existed for purposes of the June 2 election.
Local attorney William Riddle, who represents McCarthy along with Timothy Maloney of the firm Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, said that he hopes the suit can be resolved fairly quickly, with the November election a little over three months away. Riddle said the case has been assigned to retired Queen Anne’ County Circuit Court Judge Thomas G. Ross.
The BOE held a special called meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss personnel matters. At the outset of the meeting, Board President Kelly Sengstock said “The Board of Elections does not determine or rule on election outcomes or challenges, our job is to oversee the free and fair election process that is facilitated by the Cecil County Election Office, Ruie (Lavoie) and her staff. The reason for our closed session today is to discuss personnel matters and an ongoing litigation. We have the right and responsibility to those involved to hold this closed session.”
Following a one and a half hour closed session, the board took no action.
CECIL COUNTY — Over 100 people showed their support for area law enforcement officials Saturday as part of the Back the Blue event organizer Danielle Hornberger said.
Hornberger said over 85 vehicles, including cars, trucks and motorcycles gathered in Elkton Saturday morning and made the trip along U.S. Highway 40 to the Maryland State Police barracks in North East, where participants honked, waived and held up signs for law enforcement officers standing out front. Hornberger said participants from a local car club as well as members of a Christian motorcycle club participated in the event.
Hornberger said the group then drove back along Route 40 to the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office where participants held a parade around the building with Sheriff Scott Adams, Cecil County State’s Attorney James Dellmyer and represenatives for several Cecil County police departments.
The motorcycle club then led a prayer and Adams was presented with a citation as were Cecil County municipal police departments, Hornberger said.
The event was organized as way to “say thank you to local law enforcement,” Hornberger said during a previous interview.
Hornberger, who is the Republican candidate for Cecil County executive, got involved in organizing the parade after she received calls expressing interest in publicly demonstrating support for law enforcement.
NORTH EAST — Sunday the 2020 Miss and Jr. Miss Cecil County Farm Bureau were named with Brynn Lasala, 17, winning the Miss contest, while Kaylin Stafford, 15, took home the Jr. Miss contest.
Lasala, who is a student at North East High School said her future plans include attending West Virginia University to continue her love of agriculture. Lasala answered a question about the importance of farm living to her life, noting, “Living on a farm as made me a better person.”
Lasala said in the future she plans to raise her own children on a farm and believes it is important to educate people on the importance farming plays in the life of all people. Lasala was the only contestant this year for the Miss crown.
Stafford, who is a student at Rising Sun High School, said that one of the things she wants to bring attention to is the importance of agriculture, especially as the amount of land dedicated to agriculture has decreased recently. She said her favorite farm activity is raising cattle as it has taught her responsibilities that extend to other walks of life.
Stafford competed against 13-year-old Reed Mason, a student at Calvert Academy Online, who said her favorite 4-H project is raising sheep. She said while she originally focused on raising horses, sheep have taught her a lot of important life lessons.
Stafford said she felt contests like the Miss and Jr. Miss Cecil County Farm Bureau help to keep the importance of agriculture alive and allows young women the opportunity to educate others.
Reed said it is important to have young women act as ambassadors and representatives to share their knowledge of the field with others.
Lasala said that this year’s pageant, which was held at Fairwinds Farm and Stables as opposed to the Cecil County Fair, which was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak was a little less stressful than in years past.
Former Miss Cecil County Farm Bureau 2011 Katie Larrimore organized the event while Cecil County Councilman Al Miller served as master of ceremonies.
ELKTON — A woman caught with more than an ounce of fentanyl — a dangerous manmade opiate — after she drove into Cecil County from Delaware in December has received a 10-year prison term, according to court records and prosecutors.
Cecil County Circuit Court Administrative Judge Keith A. Baynes imposed a maximum 20-year sentence on the defendant, Kara Nicole Castillo, 28, of Port Deposit, and then suspended half of it during a courtroom hearing on Tuesday.
Baynes imposed the sentence moments after Castillo had pleaded guilty to possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute, as part of a plea agreement in which prosecutors dismissed 14 related charges, including importing an illegal drug into the state and possession of a large amount of fentanyl.
The sentence that Baynes imposed reflects the top of state sentencing guidelines, which set a penalty range of five to 10 years of active incarceration for Castillo. State sentencing guidelines are based on a defendant’s criminal record and other factors.
Also part of the sentence, Baynes ordered Castillo to serve three years of supervised probation after completing her 10-year term in a Maryland Department of Corrections prison.
Investigators arrested Castillo on Dec. 19, after Cecil County Drug Task Force members stopped a vehicle driven by Castillo near Elkton, after she had entered Cecil County while returning from Wilmington, Del., prosecutors said.
Having already developed Castillo as a suspect during an investigation, prosecutors added, CCDTF agents conducted a probable-cause search of Castillo and her vehicle.
Investigators found 25.5 grams of fentanyl on Castillo and an additional 7.6 grams of that drug inside her vehicle, translating to a total of 33.1 grams of fentanyl, and confiscated the contraband, court records show. There are 28 grams in an ounce.
“Fentanyl, which is a synthetic opiate, is recognized as one of the leading causes of fatal overdoses in Cecil County,” commented Steven Barlow, a Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office investigator and public information officer.
Cecil County State’s Attorney James Dellmyer applauded the efforts of CCDTF members and of Deputy State’s Attorney Patricia Fitzgerald, lead prosecutor who negotiated the plea agreement with Castillo’s defense lawyer, Michael J. Halter.
“The drug trade in Cecil County presents a risk to the health and safety of its citizens. This top-of-the-guidelines sentence is appropriate and is a reflection of the hard work of the Cecil County Drug Task Force and allied agencies,” Dellmyer remarked.
Dellmyer reported that Fitzgerald has been appointed the head of the Drugs Crimes Unit, to “aggressively curtail the drug trade” in Cecil County, and that “this case is a prime example of the progress we are making in holding drug traffickers accountable in Cecil County.”