Anonymous fliers in King Farm contribute to rising tensions ahead of Rockville election -- Gazette.Net


A woman who distributed anonymous campaign fliers in a Rockville neighborhood says she has done nothing wrong.

Before she came forward, however, representatives for the candidates the fliers opposed said they were worried the fliers were a serious violation of campaign regulations.

The fliers, distributed in the King Farm neighborhood around Oct. 20, urged residents to vote for Bridget Donnell Newton, Don Hadley and Claire Marcuccio Whitaker as the ones who would best preserve the city’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance.

The fliers do not say who published them or provide any contact information.

Echo Lin, a King Farm resident, spoke at Citizen’s Forum during a Monday Mayor and Council meeting to take responsibility for the fliers. She said concerns that some of the candidates would change the APFO led her to create and distribute the fliers.

“I decided my best approach is to educate my neighbors,” she said.

Under city code, everyone who distributes pamphlets or other written matter concerning any candidate for public office must include the name of the candidate, person or campaign committee responsible for the literature.

The code exempts individuals from including their names on literature promoting the success or defeat of a principle or proposition submitted to a vote at a city election. Lin said that means she did not have to include her name on the fliers.

“I was complying with the City Code,” she told The Gazette.

Max van Balgooy, campaign manger for the Team Rockville slate, had filed a complaint about the fliers with the Board of Supervisors of Elections on Oct. 22. The complaint alleges violations of several sections of Rockville’s elections rules, including those that prohibit distributing anonymous campaign literature.

The complaint also says that, under the city code, if more than one person helped with the fliers they must register as a campaign committee, and if they spent more than $500 on the fliers, they must file campaign finance reports.

Lin said she made the fliers and distributed them herself without any support from anyone else. She also objected to what she said were efforts by van Balgooy and Councilman Tom Moore, who is running for re-election on the Team Rockville slate, to limit her freedom of speech.

After Lin spoke at Citizen’s Forum, van Balgooy said he wants to protect freedom of speech while making sure that people play by the rules regarding elections.

“If Mrs. Lin is the only one involved, it’s not a problem,” he said.

On Friday, before Lin stepped forward, board chairwoman Lois Neuman said the first step in the board’s “fact-finding mission” was determining the source of the anonymous fliers. The board also wanted to find out whether they were were the result of mischief or a misunderstanding, she said.

“We can’t really do anything until we know the who and why,” Neuman said.

The Board of Supervisors of Elections is scheduled to discuss van Balgooy’s complaint Wednesday evening.

Moore said it’s up to the board to determine whether Lin violated the city code.

“Now they have somebody to talk to, which is great,” he said.

Moore said there is no way to take the fliers back and no point in throwing the book at Lin for distributing them, but he did not want the city blanketed with more anonymous campaign literature in the week before the election.

“Our main concern was just to get it stopped,” he said.

Neuman said Friday that aside from the concern over the fliers, preparations for the elections were going well.

“Everything is just going along swimmingly,” she said, with things the board has control over.

The polls are scheduled to be open in Rockville from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.