Monday, October 05, 2009


One of the lingering questions from the free E-ZPass investigation is why the number of legislators who had them mysteriously dropped in a month. Consider that MdTA told us in August that 128 had them, but then claimed that only 71 had them as of September 30. Why did 57 legislators vanish from the rolls in a month?

Could it be because MdTA tipped them off?

Here’s the timeline:

On August 24, we reported that MdTA admitted that 128 state legislators had free E-ZPasses. However, MdTA refused to tell us their names out of “privacy and security concerns.”

That prompted our August 26 Public Information Act request asking for the names and further details of the program. MdTA received the request on September 1.

On Friday, we learned that on September 23, MdTA sent the following letter to all state legislators possessing free E-ZPasses. The letter notified the legislators that a public information request had been filed and they even named this blog. Note the cc to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House.

On September 25, the Senate President and the Speaker announced that they were asking MdTA to terminate the perk.

On September 30, MdTA responded to our information request. This is at the very outer limit of the 30-day response time required by state law. They reported that as of September 30, only 71 legislators had the free E-ZPasses – far below the 128 they reported as having them in August.

The above timing sequence gave the legislators a week to bail out of the program prior to being outed by our information request. And the legislators had that opportunity because MdTA tipped them off.

This is the second time that MdTA has aided the Lords of Annapolis. Our information request was necessitated by their refusal to release the names back in August on grounds of “privacy and security.” MdTA should be focused on administering its toll-road responsibilities and complying with its disclosure requirements under state law rather than helping state legislators escape scrutiny into their use of public resources.

MdTA’s actions may be a far more compelling story than the distribution of the free E-ZPasses themselves. And we are going to get to the bottom of this.