If you haven’t already done so, it’s probably best that you read part one of this series. You can CLICK HERE.
Here is the SUMMARY OF WHAT YOU WILL READ BELOW: This is another example of the rules not applying to Maryland judges who are held to a much higher standard than citizens that they hear cases about. Judges are REQUIRED to honestly and completely disclose about their financial affairs outside the courthouse to the public. In Maryland, it’s a rule that they don’t have to follow. Judge Becker has business ties outside of his job at the courthouse, but didn’t want to tell the public about all of them. Judge Gelfman and her husband have SUBSTANTIAL business ties outside of the courthouse, and she didn’t feel like she should have to disclose practically any of them! There’s no penalty in Maryland for judges not complying with the law. Think about that next time you go into a courthouse and a judge requires YOU to comply with the law.
Based upon a comment made on Part One of this series, I decided to infuse Howard County’s featured initiative “Choose Civility” into this post. You’ll see why in a few paragraphs. Character education has always been something of great interest to me, but what I’ve learned through the years is that most initiatives totally miss a key component required by any authentic community adoption.
One can see by the Strategic Plan that they have on their website, the initiative aimed to not only influence the lives of Howard Countians but also be picked up and embraced as a national model to be adopted across all of the United States of America. That’s some nice-looking ambition there! Apparently, the author P.M. Forni wrote about 25 “rules of considerate conduct” in his book “Choose Civility: the 25 Rules of Considerate Conduct” and it wooed the pants off of whomever was in attendance at the library’s Staff Development Day on that fateful day in 2006. A year later, the Kool-Aid was served in abundant supply as the Howard County initiative had its kickoff event in which 15 of Forni’s 25 rules made the cut and got embraced as keepers. Note: THAT would have been an interesting strategy session to attend to witness dialogue, assuming that was the process.
The majority of people have come to understand over the past few months in particular that there is a HUGE difference between the story that people WANT you to believe vs the one that is the TRUTH. The whole strategy of spoon feeding “alternative facts” (which I’m going to go ahead and write… ISN’T NEW AND HAS BEEN IN USE AND EXISTENCE FOR A VERY LONG TIME) is being rejected by more and more citizens who understand the harm it does to society/communities and yes… its citizens.
I’m saying very clearly that BLIND FAITH IS DANGEROUS. No one should be encouraging anyone to have it.
I appreciate the distinction that Forni made with his suggestion to “think the best”, since the opposite would be to “think the worst”. The Howard County initiative modified the language to “assume the best”, which is wholly different. No one, and I mean NO ONE, should be making any assumptions about anything. Assumptions lead many people to dropping the ball and going home, as opposed to doing due diligence to ensure that unknown motivations aren’t causing people to behave in the ways witnessed or experienced. There is that saying that to assume makes an ASS of U and… (Remember, Forni says to “respect others’ opinions!)
If the law says that you CAN know about the financial involvements of an elected judge (who may be ruling in your hearings and trials), wouldn’t you want to exercise that right to view those required disclosures if you wanted? Would you want to know if judges were in business with each other outside of the courthouse?
Judge Louis Becker, mentioned in post ONE for various reasons, is the subject of this post. He is a retired judge now, but is still called for cases I believe, which is a nice setup. I don’t think I’ve seen any information about whether they collect retirement pay AND other pay to hear cases, but let me not get off tangent here! He’s part of the Advisory Board for the Maryland Center for Character Education along with 40 other people. Among those 40 are Olympian Michael Phelps (and I guess that’s his mom, Deborah?). Great for all the kiddos aspiring to be him! And then there are about 6 other attorneys on the list (one is another judge), undoubtedly because of the importance placed upon the field in Maryland. And then, the deputy planning director for Howard County.
I’m going to deliberately press “fast forward” over that one… (but YOU can muse on that if you wish)
What I absolutely LOVE about Becker’s disclosures is just how comprehensive his are compared to Gelfman’s shown in post one. (“speak kindly”: from Choose Civility. Check!) As you will see from his disclosure for the year when he first became a judge (district court 1989), he FULLY disclosed his other partners in the commercial office condo. (Note: I must apologize for the white-out that the Judiciary placed over the judge’s business interest disclosure being discussed. I almost didn’t post it, but decided that I liked what it reveals about the judiciary in Annapolis in terms of what they are doing to prevent disclosure). Becker disclosed he is a “Tenant in partnership with former law partners my interest 1/5th”. You rock, Louis! He goes on to write that the partners are “Ronald L. Spahn, David S. Harvis, Robert L. Fila”.
Hold up! (“Pay attention”: from Choose Civility. Check!)
Do you see it too?
Um, I can count. And if you are ONE, Louis, then there should be FOUR more to make FIVE. So, who did you ditch? Let’s go to the deed to see.
Poor Jerome! Or maybe lucky, depending on how you look at it.
Okay, but since the filing disclosure was due in April 1990 up in Annapolis, you had a lot of time to get those facts straight. Oh, wait! There is this letter that you sent along with your disclosure. So, you sold your interest to Charles Broida, you are saying. You mention “Letter Agreements” that you provided, but, well, those gatekeepers up in Annapolis evidently shredded them and decided that you DIDN’T need to give all that (i.e. it isn’t in your disclosure file).
Did you know that the elephant brain is denser than a human’s, and their temporal lobes associated with memory are more developed? We haven’t forgotten about you, Mary Ann! (“Acknowledge others”: from Choose Civility. Check!)
Well, let’s help sort this out with the help of land records shall we? That January 16th deed that you referenced lists the sale of your 1/5 interest in the property to Charles Broida for $11,081. And okay, you’ve mentioned “Colt” in the part where you report on interest in business entities… you just left him off the ownership of the real estate.
BUT, you definitely failed to mention on your disclosure that the real estate was ALSO owned by Richard Gelfman and David H. Greenberg (brother of Judge Lenore Gelfman) when you sold it!!
I can’t even tell when THAT happened, because a search on Gelfman and Greenberg doesn’t pull THAT deed. Now, I’m gonna have to write here that it cannot be a coincidence that YOU left off that information, (and so does she) on EVERY ONE of her disclosures. (“Refrain from idle complaints”: from Choose Civility. Check!). This complaint isn’t idle… because I know for sure that there had to be a whole lot of legal parties and attorneys who would have liked to have known that the both of your households were financially entangled with one another for however long! And I’m writing that because YOU wrote in that letter and as of April 1990 that “..my wife and I are still liable on the two mortgages securing the real property but we are working on terminating our liability thereon.” DID YOU? (terminate it?) I’m asking because one can apparently go TEN YEARS without knowing that you are still responsible for and on the hook for $44K from an old law firm.
(“Be inclusive”: from Choose Civility. Check!) That had to be one pissed off former state’s attorney!
Now… don’t think it went unnoticed that you disclosed your partnership in the Empire Builders Stock Club. Louis, is there some reason that you were a 1/18th partner thru 9/89 (the month that you started as an associate judge over at District) but only a 1/16th afterwards? I suppose it makes no sense to ask the identity of the two who thought it best to ghost out, when you disclosed the names of FOURTEEN other people.
Counting… add you, and that’s 15. What’s up? (Note: and it’s stuff like this that lets me know that Annapolis isn’t looking AT ALL at the contents revealed in the disclosures… they only check that they were completed by the filer)
What I also really appreciate is the disclosure in 1990 that the law firm evolved into the entity name “Gelfman, Spahn, Harvis, Broida & Greenberg”. (“Accept/give praise”: from Choose Civility. Check!) That’s because, on Norrie Gelfman’s disclosure (the one and only time it’s mentioned… 1989) she claims a passing interest in what was “Gelfman & Gelfman”, which did exist back then. However, the entity name changed to “Gelfman, Gelfman, Lyon”, then “Gelfman & Gelfman”, then “Gelfman & Greenberg” before “David H. Greenberg, P.A.” (as far as SDAT knows). Personal property tax returns are still being filed for a “Gelfman, Spahn, Harvis, Broida & Greenberg” (last one done march 2016 according to SDAT), although it’s of note that according to State Department of Assessment and Taxation, there wasn’t an official business entity (subject to the entity fee) by the name “Gelfman, Spahn, Harvis, Broida & Greenberg”. Sweet! since there are attorneys who just let theirs expire anyway, but keep on using it to transact business with people and the courts. Some one should benefit, if it’s not the state!
But then, there wasn’t an entity named “Gelfman & Spahn” either, according to SDAT. But that’s not what Samuel Caplan’s daughter, Necia Salan, or her attorney Gerard Martin thought in wills and probate!
Sooooooo…… Gerard Martin, who is actually YOUR long-time friend… partner in the Empire Builders…. And yep, appreciate the thorough-appearing Schedule I information which is “optional” (though I say it should definitely NOT be for reasons that should be obvious by now!) (“Assert yourself”: from Choose Civility. Check!)
More on that in a future post, because as they say ““Civility is a journey, not a destination”, and we’re not quite done with this series. If Choose Civility is actually being incorporated into “government” as the strategic plan indicated that it could “easily” be done, I’d really like to see any “measurement of impact”, assuming they did so with the government segment of their definition of “community”. Or is it only really meant to be used to control citizens? I’m attempting not to “speak ill”, since it’s one of Forni’s Rules… but then again, it wasn’t one that Choose Civility adopted.
Nor was “Be Agreeable”, so….
Oh, and the missing component mentioned at the start? It’s that you won’t get citizen adoption when they see a prevalent “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality. You know, the majority of the stuff in the report about Sheriff Fitzgerald.
P.S. Pleased to post that this email was sent to Congressman Jamie Raskin, who used to be on the Special Committee on Ethics Reform in Maryland. He was just appointed onto the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and will sit with Congressman Elijiah Cummings (who coincidentally, is the CHAIR of the advisory board for the Maryland character organization mentioned in this post. We’re going to see if we can get some reform here in Maryland! Congressman Raskin actually responded within an hour sending this email with suggestions/comments! Now THAT’S a public servant!