Del. Pat McDonough has threated to pursue legal action and introduce legislation in Annapolis if the Bel Air Independence Day Committee fails to remove or revise rules he claims prohibit free speech during the annual July 4th parade.
A furious letter writing campaign and bitter back-and-forth between Del. McDonough’s supporters and members of the Independence Day Committee ensued after Parade Chairman Mike Blum and McDonough disagreed over whether the signs the delegate carried with him on the Bel Air parade route violated the terms of a contract for the event.
Although Del. McDonough is now calling the incident a “disagreement” and backing away from using the word “confrontation,” earlier versions of the story included descriptions of “obscene disrespect” and “yanking signs from children.”
Evidence may exist in the form of a video filmed during the parade, but Del. McDonough is unsure of whether he will release the footage to the public.
“We are reluctant to release the video tape at this time because of some legal issues that are in process,” McDonough wrote in an email.
Here is how Del. McDonough described the event:
“I would also point out that the meeting between Mike Blum and myself was not a confrontation. My vehicle had already stopped when Mike approached and demanded I put the signs away, my response” I have had these signs for six years in this parade”. Mike said “its the rule and you signed the contract,” I said, “there’s a bigger rule called the Constitution and free speech” at which point he said, “we will deal with this on Monday.” What ever that means? Mike then quickly departed and headed for Delegate Impallaria’s group,” McDonough wrote.
“I do not feel that was a confrontation, but merely a disagreement,” he added.
Composed after two days of breathless letter-writing, radio appearance and email blasts, Del. McDonough said he is now focusing his attention on one specific area.
“There is only one issue I am addressing, the current rule that Prohibits Free Speech,” he wrote.
Here is the plan of attack McDonough has laid out:
“A group of concerned citizens will be sending a letter to the Parade committee requesting they review and change the rule. We will offer suggestions. Should the committee reject our request the only option remaining will be legal action seeking judicial review. I will be exploring legislation regarding the Constitution and Article 40 of the Maryland State Constitution prohibiting overly restrictive contract language related to events directly or indirectly subsidized by public funds,” he wrote.
In other words, if the Bel Air Independence Day Committee reviews and revises its rules regarding electioneering, campaign signage, and what may and may not be displayed during the parade, Del. McDonough will call off the angry mob – the angry mob he was largely responsible for inciting, although McDonough seems to be distancing himself from some of the statements made by the mob as well.
“The rule is the only real issue. All of the other flack is a distraction and simply people expressing their opinions,” McDonough wrote.