Speaking of benefactors, could The Aegis newspaper, Harford County’s community newspaper of record, have been helping the cause of an Aberdeen annexation opposition group behind the scenes last year?
More disturbing details from the testimony of a member of the annexation opposition, as part of the lawsuit that group filed against the City of Aberdeen, indicate the group, formerly known as Say No Annex or unofficially as ‘the redshirts,’ may have had an anonymous “Godfather” pampering them with services, support and cold hard cash – everything the group needed to take on the Wetlands annexation proposal.
It was long speculated such a “Godfather” existed, especially when the opposition group, which consists of Aberdeen and non-Aberdeen resident volunteers, was suddenly outfitted with matching shirts and signs, began distributing information pamphlets and mailers and purchased expensive advertisements in local newspapers.
The existence of a “Godfather” perhaps came to light most publicly during an informational meeting at Aberdeen High School regarding the Wetlands annexation agreement. During the meeting, annexation opposition group attorney J. Carroll Holzer stood and announced there was an interested, anonymous entity willing to purchase the Wetlands property and retain it as a golf course. The revelation drew gasps from the crowd and silence from the Wetlands ownership team. Such a deal never came to pass and the “Godfather” remained veiled in secrecy.
The whispering around the city was that the anti-annexation effort was being funded in secret by Peter Bosworth, a rival Aberdeen area developer who may have been afraid a Wetlands annexation would devour the city’s remaining capacity for residential development – leaving him and his many projects on the outside looking in.
Bosworth certainly contributed funds to a number of candidates running for election in Aberdeen’s Nov. 6 election, but may not be the “Godfather” many have suspected.
During his deposition in Harford County Circuit Court on Sept. 28, annexation opposition group member Bob Price indicated the so-called “Godfather” may actually have been a network of people, entities and other anonymous benefactors.
In his testimony, Price even suggested The Aegis newspaper, which reported almost weekly on the Wetlands annexation and in the weeks leading up to the Dec. 5, 2006 special election ran a string of dueling ads from the Wetlands development team and the anti-annexation group, might have played a role.
But could The Aegis, which covered the entire annexation fiasco in a reasonably unbiased fashion (we should know, we were the ones writing the stories), have impacted the annexation in another way?
Price, when asked by Wetlands Aberdeen LLC attorney Curtis Coon if the Say No Annex group had a “benefactor or a godfather,” replied:
“…I don’t know whether when we took out all those Aegis ads, whether we had a kind of benefactor at The Aegis that decided to give us a very good rate because maybe they didn’t like what was going on.”
So was Price just hypothetically musing that the “Godfather” could have been anyone or is he saying the anti-annexation group got a “very good rate” on its expensive ads because someone at The Aegis wanted to see their side prevail over the annexation attempt?
If so, that’s kind of an odd example to offer up as testimony under oath in your deposition. He could have mentioned, as an example, getting a good deal on the group’s T-shirts because the print shop didn’t want to see the Wetlands annexation approved. But instead Price decided to single out the one entity which is supposed to remain neutral, objective and unbiased in its line of work.
No one would care if the local print shop decided to give the anti-annexation group a price cut, but to say the local newspaper may have done the same thing is a heavy allegation that cuts to the core of the paper’s integrity.
For the record, The Aegis newspaper’s editorial stance was that the Wetlands annexation proposal wasn’t entirely a bad idea, and even had some good points, but it asked for far too dense of a residential component.
But if we’re to believe Price’s testimony, the community newspaper may have taken another route to influencing the outcome of the annexation special election.