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New Documents on Shuster Brother Lobbying Show Town of Chevy Chase Misinformed Residents Before Public Hearing

Press release issued March 24, 2014

When the Town of Chevy Chase announced its Jan. 8 public hearing about whether to spend $350,000 on “Purple Line legal assistance,” it had already agreed in writing that it would receive “non-legal services only.”

The agreement was contained in a contract signed December 9 between the town and the lobbying and law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. The contract has just come to light as a result of a Public Information Act request filed by the Action Committee for Transit.

The contract, which authorized payment of an initial $20,000 plus expenses, also states that its terms may be extended pursuant to the January 8 public hearing. No public bidding invitation was provided to other potential contractors.

On December 11, the town met with two lobbyists from Buchanan Ingersoll at the Woodmont Grill in Bethesda. One of the lobbyists was Robert Shuster, brother of House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee chair Bill Shuster.

The public was not informed of the January 8 hearing until the town newsletter was distributed on New Years' Eve. The newsletter told residents that the town planned to “engage a law firm” to provide “Purple Line legal assistance.”

“Even if these actions complied with the letter of Maryland law concerning open meetings and procurement, they were contrary to its spirit,” commented ACT vice-president Tina Slater. “Every government body should seek the maximum in openness and fairness.”