From Harford County Councilman Aaron D. Penman:
The Cassilly Administration has weaponized the government to target and spy on those who seek oversight.
Evidence has been obtained that reveals the Cassilly Administration has monitored phone and email communication between Councilman Penman, Sheriff Gahler, former County Executive Barry Glassman, a private attorney, and targeted citizens. Cassilly, and his Administration have no authority to spy on or review electronic data outside of his Executive Branch. This deliberate and coordinated effort is believed to have been orchestrated in an attempt to monitor and hinder an ongoing investigation.
This unprecedented violation, along with a recent coordinated public attack is a clear and premediated scheme to harass, silence and intimidate Councilman Penman, who recently discovered the Cassilly Administration committed improper governmental practices and misappropriated County funds. This unethical and illegal action by the Cassilly Administration was committed right after the referral of the previous case to the State Prosecutor’s Office and could also be an attempt to spy on the communications concerning that investigation. This desperate measure taken by the Cassilly Administration to potentially influence an investigation and control government should give every elected official, government employee and law abiding citizen, concern that they could be next.
This misconduct in Office is not only a violation of the 4th amendment rights of those targeted, but an attack on democracy, along with the separation and independent powers of the Office of District B and Sheriff’s Office. There is no difference between this violation and an illegal search and seizure of Councilman Penman’s office and documents. A place that has private and confidential correspondences between Councilman Penman and constituents.
This shocking discovery is grounds for an immediate criminal investigation for misconduct in office and wiretapping violations, under Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Section 10-401, a felony punishable of up to five years imprisonment and/or $10,000 fine.
In the interim, Councilman Penman calls on County Executive Cassilly, and those directors who were involved to take a leave of absence. The Cassilly Administration clearly cannot be trusted. If they’ve gone to these lengths, they most certainly will spy on agencies investigating and reviewing the case, such as the State’s Attorney’s Office and Harford County Sheriff’s Office.
From the Harford County Sheriff’s Office:
Please see the following in reference to a criminal complaint alleging violations of Maryland’s wiretap statute:
On July 27, 2023, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office received a criminal complaint alleging violations of Maryland’s wiretap statute involving the illegal interception of electronic communications. The victims identified in the complaint are elected and government officials as well as members of the business community.
As with any report of a crime we have a duty to investigate, treating reports of crime without bias towards the victims or suspect’s identity. If founded, this case is particularly egregious, as Maryland boasts some of the most comprehensive and stringent wiretapping laws in the nation, emphasizing the protection of citizens’ privacy.
Due to the complexity of the wiretapping statutes and that some of the victims are elected officials, detectives from Harford County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigations Division were assigned to this case and will report directly to the Harford County State’s Attorney, to ensure fairness and transparency.
Throughout the investigation, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office will refrain from disclosing additional information or making any comments.
Given the gravity of the accusations, we are committed to a thorough and diligent investigation to safeguard the rights of all citizens of Harford County.
From Harford County government:
Harford County Executive’s Response to Councilman Penman’s Allegations
Harford County’s Information Communication Technology Policy and County Issued Cell Phones Policy make abundantly clear that no user of electronic devices issued by the County has any expectation of privacy as to information conveyed through the use of such information technology and that the County has the right at any time to inspect all electronically stored information on such technology devices.
On or about May 23, 2023, Councilman Aaron Penman made public allegations of an alleged misappropriation of seven million dollars in County funds. Councilman Penman refused to cooperate with the Executive Branch’s inquiry regarding his allegations.
The County Director of Administration, upon learning of Councilman Penman’s allegations, undertook a comprehensive internal investigation to ascertain whether there was any basis to suspect misuse of county funds. Having failed to find any evidence of improper activity, the Director of Administration, on May 30, 2023, directed county staff to review county servers for communications between Councilman Penman and Sheriff Gahler, Sheriff Gahler’s Information Officer and Campaign Manager, Erik Robey, and Councilman Penman’s campaign advisor, Joseph Snee, in order to exhaust a search of the County server for the most likely recipients of communications from Councilman Penman concerning his allegations of misappropriation of funds by Executive Branch members. The requested search disclosed no basis for the serious allegations being leveled by Councilman Penman.
It is well within the authority of the Executive Branch, when faced with allegations of wrongdoing by its own directors or employees, to conduct an examination of the electronic communications located on Harford County servers of the Councilmember accusing a County employee of improper use of County funds. At no time did the Executive Branch monitor Councilman Penman’s emails or cell phone. The examination conducted was appropriately limited in order to provide the level of confidentiality necessary to support an effective investigation of an alleged misuse of county funds.
From the Office of the State’s Attorney for Harford County:
The Office of the State’s Attorney for Harford County has reviewed the criminal complaint made by Councilman Aaron Penman as well as the results of the investigation by the Harford County Sheriff’s Office to date. As a result of this review and in an effort to encourage a transparent and independent investigation and prosecution determination, State’s Attorney Healey has referred this matter to the Office of the State Prosecutor, who has the legislative authority to investigate and prosecute these types of alleged crimes. Any additional questions regarding this matter should be directed to the Office of the State Prosecutor.