CROOKED ST. MARY’S PART II: Was Project Graduation Money for Fritz’s Designated Female Staffer?
BIG BUCKS FOR FRITZ DESIGNATED FEMALE STAFFER BLOWS UP WHEN STERLING REFUSED TO REQUEST MONEY FOR NON-EXISTENT WORK FOR CANCELLED PROJECT GRADUATION.
By Ken Rossignol
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
NEWS & COMMENTARY
LEONARDTOWN, MD. – The Walled City of Leonardtown has yet another tale of special deals, political intrigue involving public funds, and profanity-laced temper tantrums allegedly perpetrated by the ‘prosecutor with a past.’
According to official documents, one of which was marked in bold red letters “CONFIDENTIAL” which have been obtained by THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY, St. Mary’s States Attorney Richard Fritz ordered Deputy States Attorney Jaymi Sterling, to request money be transferred by the county commissioners to an employee in violation of the personnel regulations of St. Mary’s County.
(Note: all the contents of the letter involve public business, public funds, and appropriations and indicate the mindset of some politicians who wish to dilute the Open Meetings Act and conduct public business in secret. That usually is what CONFIDENTIAL means.)
In an obscenity-laced tirade in the States Attorney’s Office during business hours, in full view and hearing of many staffers, Fritz unloaded his thoughts upon Sterling – with ample use of the “F-word.”
When Sterling refused to do so and referred the matter to the St. Mary’s Board of Commissioners with an explanation that the direct payment to a particular female member of his staff violated personnel policies; Fritz blew a gasket and demanded to know why Sterling went around him.
“What the F— do you think you are doing making personnel grievance reports without consulting with me.”
In an obscenity-laced tirade in the States Attorney’s Office during business hours, in full view and hearing of many staffers, Fritz unloaded his thoughts upon Sterling – with ample use of the “F-word.” Fritz accused Sterling of going behind his back in contacting the county commissioners and told her that she was immediately demoted from the position of Deputy States Attorney. “What the F— do you think you are doing making personnel grievance reports without consulting with me.”
Sterling was promoted to the post of Deputy States Attorney in January of 2020 with direct responsibility for the administration of the office.
Ironically, the payment for the designated recipient of Fritz’s fun money was a female staffer who didn’t have much to do, as Project Graduation did not take place.
The funds involved payment for extra work for that female staffer for Project Graduation – a project to keep graduating seniors busy on graduation night at chaperoned events to keep them from overdosing on drugs or smashing into trees while drunk driving.
Always a Great Legal Mind That Finds Solutions
Fritz ordered Deputy States Attorney Sterling to request by letter that the County Commissioners provide one of his employees with a payment of $25,000 for all the hard work she put in for Project Graduation – which was canceled due to COVID. The designated recipient was a new employee of the office of states attorney. She has been designated to be the Project Graduation overseer in 2021 – if there is a Project Graduation next spring.
Fritz even had a genius plan to get around the law – after all, that is what lawyers do, is concoct genius plans to get around the law.
Some readers may remember that Fritz advised Sheriff Richard Voorhaar and a posse of deputies that it was constitutional to raid the newsstands on election eve in 1998 and clean out all available copies of ST. MARY’S TODAY before readers could learn of his pleading guilty to carnal knowledge of a 15-year-old girl, along with two other men, and being sentenced to 18 months in prison when he was a senior at Great Mills High School. The victim said she was forcibly raped.
When the newspaper filed suit in federal court, the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had a different view. It said that the actions of Fritz, Sheriff Voorhaar, and the other defendants were akin to those taken in nations much more oppressive than our own and that Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1983 to keep law officers from going about errands of suppression in the middle of the night. (Rossignol v Voorhaar 4th Circuit, 2003).
In short, Fritz, Voorhaar, and the deputies were found to violate the First Amendment rights of the newspaper and the readers of the newspaper, spelling out that officials cannot retaliate against a publisher for criticism of their official actions.
The deputies videotaped themselves and gave excellent speeches, which were recorded as to exactly why they were cleaning out the newsstands. Their raid was in retaliation for criticism of their official conduct, which was often published in the newspaper as much of the actions of the St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Department were wasteful, violated the rights of both employees and the public, and often corrupt. There was never a shortage of activities of which to be critical.
St. Mary’s Today articles on the day of the election also detailed that Voorhaar assigned a female deputy to work under the supervision of a male commander about whom she had filed a complaint of sexual harassment.
The insurer for the County paid a settlement of nearly a half-million dollars to the publisher. Fritz had to write a check for $10,000 from his personal account as part of the settlement of the federal lawsuit won by the newspaper.
A Bright Idea for Extra Money
for Designated Female Staffer
Fritz’s plan to get around the county personnel regulations was to concoct the novel idea that his designated female recipient would be paid as a contract employee – just for the Project Graduation duties.
When Sterling refused to request the fishy deal for Fritz after warning the County Commissioners and County Attorney that the dubious request was on the way, Fritz sent the letter himself and ordered the letter typed by the aggrieved employee who had requested a grievance be filed. The letter was dated July 21, 2020.
Sterling gave notice of her resignation effective September 30, 2020, and used the last two weeks of her employment to work in transferring cases to other prosecutors to be sure that justice was obtained for the victims of crimes.
States Attorney Walter B. Dorsey originated Project Graduation. It involved various volunteers from private groups and fraternal organizations, Pax River Naval Air Station, the public schools, the Maryland State Police, and the Sheriff’s Department.
The first Fritz letter
Fritz recited in the opening of his letter, addressed to County Commissioner President Randy Guy, that the COVID Pandemic has put the brakes on the court system and delayed many cases until October. Fritz must have been dipping into some homebrew left in his office by one of his many supplicants who contribute $100 to get their DUI and drug charges dropped in court, with their “donation” going to Project Graduation when he wrote:
“As this pandemic affects Project Graduation, I am finding that the attorney primarily in charge of Project Graduation is in need of assistance in coordinating this project. His prosecutorial duties come first, Project Graduation was a side note that he, as all before, volunteered to do. Because the criminal and civil caseloads are increasing, hours spent on volunteer projects is becoming increasingly difficult.”
The basic trouble with that statement is that Project Graduation was supposed to take place in June, it was canceled well in advance of graduation, and there was really nothing to do. Fritz also refers to the “criminal and civil caseloads are increasing…” Fritz should be reminded that his office prosecutes criminal cases, not civil cases.
Also, in his July 21st letter, Fritz said:
“It is my request that my office be approved the sum of $25,000 per year from Project Graduation funds to pay the assigned administrative assistant to take on these vital functions to the successful planning and carrying out of Project Graduation.
“I have reviewed our Project Graduation fund, and the requested amount is readily available without negatively impacting our purpose of providing an alcohol and drug-free graduation night for our seniors.
“In addition, I might add, that this amount is not being requested from general funds of the County, nor will the assigned duties impact retirement funds, or insurance because the assigned person is already a county employee.
“Should this request be approved, I request that the amount be broken into quarterly payments of $6,250.00, with the first payment commencing September 11, 2020, with the County withholding taxes, etc.”
Fritz Reveals A Hidden Part of his Plan
Note that in Fritz’s letter to the Board of St. Mary’s Commissioners, he stated that “the assigned person is already a county employee,” revealing that the designated female office staffer has been chosen by him to be the recipient of the fishy money. Thus the Fritz Plan for Fair Compensation of a Designated Female Staffer – a relatively new employee – was being given to this person and ignoring the employee with twenty years of service, which was already doing the duties with no extra compensation.
Designated Female Recipients of Public Funds by Elected Officials a Proud Maryland Tradition
This ‘arrangement’ is reminiscent of when Maryland Governor Parris Glendening gave raises of over $31,000 to his deputy chief of staff and elevated this “designated female staffer” over longtime staffers who were also female and senior to the favored woman. The favored woman was traveling with Governor Glendening to South Africa, Europe, and around the United States as well as cuddling up for overnight trysts in the State of Maryland yacht.
Not long after the news of Governor Glendening bedding, his deputy chief of staff was revealed in ST. MARY’S TODAY, the Governor’s wife divorced him, he married his deputy chief of staff, and a lovechild was shown to the world. The affair inspired an entire series of Luv Gov editorial cartoons in ST. MARY’S TODAY complete with many showing the Governor and a baby carriage with the infant hollering, “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa.”
The Second Letter from Fritz
In a letter from Fritz to St. Mary’s County Attorney David Weiskopf – who represents the County Commissioners – Fritz, having learned that his prior request for special funding of his designated female staffer had been denied, still acted as if the money was really for operating Project Graduation. He also threatened that Project Graduation would be sunk, over, kaput, if he didn’t get his way.
“Dear Mr. Weiskopf:
“Thank you for your telephone call of September 21, 2020, informing me that the Board of Commissioners has denied my request to compensate an administrative assistant to help administer Project Graduation.
“As I informed you, this could be accomplished by way of a contract outside the merit system. If I choose to contract with an administrative assistant outside of work hours, I do not see why it would matter to whom I assign this task.
“The failure of the Commissioners to approve this request could have a substantial impact on our ability to continue in this program.
“Please let me know the position of the Board on this matter.”
Signed Richard Fritz, States Attorney
Project Graduation gets a great deal of money from tainted sources – the miscreants who do not have to hire a defense attorney to deal with their repeat offender DUI arrests and drug charges. They simply walk into the states attorney’s office, ask to see Fritz, and lay out some cash as a donation for Project Graduation, and Fritz will drop their charges. The repeat offender DUI drivers go free and are available to kill you and your family, courtesy of Richard Fritz and his deals with Project Graduation as a shield. The old county families like this arrangement simply fine, and all the new voters in the county vote for anyone with an “R” after their name without any knowledge of the worthiness of the candidate. Thus, nothing is likely to change.
Another States Attorney Was Ticked Off About Not Being Kept in the Loop
This story is full of irony.
Fritz, as Deputy States Attorney in 1992, went around St. Mary’s States Attorney Walter Dorsey, his boss. Fritz called in the State Police to investigate reports of county officials playing poker with drug dealers in the Cinderblock Building located next to the Sign of the Whale Liquors in Lexington Park, Md.
When ST. MARY’S TODAY revealed the investigation; Dorsey was furious with Fritz for not consulting him; however, he did not demote Fritz. He demanded that Fritz accounts for $50,000 worth of unaccounted-for drug money used to pay informants.
Fritz had been racking up special payments for ‘overtime’ as he went out on drug investigations with deputies at night, rolling up big salary bills. Instead of providing the documentation of the drug funds under his control, Fritz quit his post and began private practice representing all the local drug dealers until he won the position he holds now, in 1998.
Now Fritz has been quoted in published reports as blasting the job performance and integrity of Sterling, claiming she had acted out of her own political goals of running for the office he holds and declared that her actions came about only when he said he was going to run for another term in 2022.
Sterling has a large following of her own in St. Mary’s County with more than 500 people posting supporting ‘likes’ on one social media platform, and more than 200 supportive comments. Many of her supporters were utterly in the dark about the criminal background of Fritz, mostly due to their ages.
Another factor may come into play in assisting Jaymi Sterling should she decide to run for States Attorney. She is married into one of the largest and most respected families in the County. Fritz has lost two elections in his political career. The first was to Walter B. Dorsey in the Democratic primary in 1994. The second was when Fritz attempted to oust newly appointed Circuit Court Judge Karen Abrams in 2004. Abrams handily beat Fritz in both the Republican and Democratic primaries. Judges have to run as a candidate in both party primaries and independent voters have no say in the matter.
In addition, Sterling’s father, Larry Hogan, is the Governor of Maryland and knows a thing or two about politics.