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Local advocate says Farm Road just the tip of the Iceberg

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Published on: Thursday, July 18, 2013

By Holden Wilen

Farm Road advocates say the ongoing crisis regarding property owners in Sandy Spring is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to problems with the state’s Park and Planning Commission.

 “No one is watching the hen house,” Adrienne Gude said. “Park and Planning’s job would be to make sure that plans are correct. They say they are not responsible for that. DLLR won’t investigate Park and Planning. “

Steve Kanstoroom,  an Ashton resident and a leading advocate for the property owners, and Adrienne Gude, a former staff aide to County Councilman Marc Elrich, say licensed professionals are not being held accountable by the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation because the DLLR will not investigate complaints against the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC.)  Additionally, officials from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) say they do not have statutory authority to investigate licensed professionals.

The process started, Kanstoroom said, when he made a complaint to DLLR about an engineer in February 2007 because he found out the engineer never received licensing from the state to perform work as an engineer of record.

“It was immediately established that (the engineer) was never licensed, as I had already confirmed, and a cease and desist order was sent by DLLR to (the engineer),” Kanstoroom said.

The complaint received immediate attention from the OAG senior staff, Kanstoroom said. As he worked with staff on the complaint, Kanstoroom said he also was dealing with a surveying issue in which a land surveyor made a mistake on Kanstoroom’s property by including it another property survey. He took the case to court and settled, but found the same surveyor also worked on the Farm Road property in Sandy Spring.

“Ultimately I had to seek court intervention to halt the wrongful inclusion of my property into the subdivision. During that time I learned that the same firm that made my house and barn disappear made Farm Road disappear.  I provided that information to County officials, the IG and the OAG.  Ultimately, Adrienne Gude was instructed to file a written complaint,” Kanstoroom said.

Kanstoroom said the investigation into the Farm Road controversy’s irregularities was later shut down.   Former Montgomery County Inspector General Thomas Dagley wrote a letter to Kanstoroom wherein he said he is aware of investigations shut down by prosecutors and law enforcement individuals for partisan reasons. Kanstoroom and Gude both said those prosecutors are senior staff members in Attorney General Doug Gansler’s office.

“I provided that information to county officials, [Dagley] and office of the attorney general,” Kanstoroom said. “Ultimately, Adrienne Gude was instructed to file a written complaint.”

 Gude said she made a complaint on October 1, 2007 at the request of Gansler’s senior staff, Chief of the Criminal Division Dan Barnett and Assistant Attorney General Rakesh Patel regarding surveyors involved with Dellabrooke and Farm Road who were also involved with an issue regarding Kanstoroom’s Ashton property. Gude revised her complaint on Nov. 5 at the request of Chief of Litigation Susan Cherry.

On Nov. 15, 2007, Gude said Barnett contacted her to meet him at a Starbucks. Sensing something was not right, she said she called Kanstoroom, who ended up going with her. At Starbucks, Gude and Kanstoroom each said Barnett told them the attorney general’s office would not be moving forward with the complaint because Maryland does not have a fraud statute, thus ending the investigation.

In December, Kanstoroom and Gude said the investigator resigned in protest. In Dagley’s letter to Kanstoroom, he wrote, “I am aware that in one case, an investigator resigned in protest after being ordered to shut down his investigation into Park and Planning.”

David Paulson, spokesperson for the Office of the Attorney General, said he is not aware of any Starbucks meeting.

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