Town Hall Alliance – But With Whom?

Political Ties in Question

News Analysis by Sean Rice, Editor of The County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (Aug. 5, 2010)—St. Mary's County commissioner candidate Randy Guy told The Enterprise newspaper in an article about his full-page “attack ad” aimed at his primary election opponent Thomas McKay in the St. Mary’s Today that the ad cost him “absolutely nothing.”

Guy also told The Enterprise that he created the ad as “sort of a joking thing” when St. Mary’s Today tabloid publisher Kenneth Rossignol snapped a picture of him holding his associate’s degree.

The comments sent Guy backtracking on his words when contacted by The County Times, and he also accused The Enterprise of misrepresenting his interview with reporter Jason Babcock.

The comments made to The Enterprise and The County Times also reopen lingering issues about the Town Hall Alliance slate of candidates, which Guy is a member of, and its alliance with the St. Mary’s Today tabloid. Members of the Town Hall Alliance continue to claim they have no connection to St. Mary’s Today’s founder Kenneth Rossignol, despite published comments and advertisements testifying the opposite is true.

“I mean, my God, it’s pretty obvious,” Commissioner Thomas Mattingly said Tuesday about Rossignol’s involvement with the Town Hall Alliance. “Absolutely, there’s no question about it. It’s obvious in the advertisements that [Rossignol] is still actively engaged.”

Mattingly is finishing out his third term as a county commissioner, and has become vocal this year against Rossignol’s paper and what he says are irresponsible comments and actions from Rossignol’s slate of candidates. “My greatest hope at this point is that the Rossignol agenda doesn’t see the light of day …” Mattingly wrote in a letter to The Enterprise in February.

Mattingly told The County Times that Rossignol “writes a tremendous amount of inaccurate information that doesn’t present a true picture of what has transpired, it’s an injustice to the community to put out false information like that.”

Mattingly went on to say that “it’s obvious that these candidates that are in this Town Hall Alliance of Rossignol’s are using that same information for their platforms, and I don’t think they’ve made an effort to become informed.”

Guy apparently wasn’t informed about campaign finance laws in Maryland when he told Babcock his full-page ad in St. Mary’s Today cost “absolutely nothing.”

According to Ross Goldstein, Deputy Administrator for the State board of elections, a newspaper is allowed to give out free advertisements to any candidate they choose, but it will be counted as an “in-kind” political donation.

Goldstein, although, said there are maximums on how much free stuff you can give to candidates. During a four-year election, a business or person can donate up to $4,000 to any one candidate or slate of candidates, and a total of no more than $10,000 can be donated to all candidates in one election cycle.

Guy, when contacted by The County Times this week, said the full-page ad in St. Mary’s Today wasn’t free and “definitely cost something” but needed to find out exact details before commenting further.

When contacted a second time, Guy said the ad was “an in-kind contribution from the editor.” He also said that The Enterprise reporter Jason Babcock “misunderstood” his response in the July 30 article. The question, according to Guy was “did you pay in cash for the ad?” and that’s why he said he paid “absolutely nothing.”

Before hanging up the phone on The County Times reporter, Guy said he was sure Rossignol had to be involved as the editor of St Mary’s Today, but that he had no direct contact with him.

Babcock, when contacted by The County Times, said he did not specify a payment method in the question, and simply asked what Guy paid for the ad, to which he responded “ … absolutely nothing.”

Guy also told Babcock that he stood there with the degree in hand while Rossignol took the picture.

Rick Boyd, editor of The Enterprise, told The County Times that the newspaper 100 percent stands behind what Babcock reported, without a doubt.

“We believe that Jason accurately reported that conversation,” Boyd said.

St. Mary’s County Commissioner Larry Jarboe, head of the Town Hall Alliance, said earlier this year to The County Times that Rossignol is no long a volunteer member of the Alliance.

That comment came after the Alliance’s Web site attributed sexist comments about MetCom director Jackie Meiser to commissioner candidate Dan Morris – only to have Morris later claim that those comments were actually written by Rossignol and Morris’s name was incorrectly attached.

“He’s resigned from any volunteer duties with the Town Hall Alliance,” Jarboe said at the time about Rossignol.

Jarboe did not answer numerous calls and messages this week seeking comment for this article. Rossignol hung up the phone on a reporter after saying “if there’s any questions, have Tom McKay call.”

“Tell Hambone to call me, I want to talk to the Big Cheese himself,” Jarboe is quoted as saying on the St. Mary’s Today Web site in response to The County Times efforts to talk to Town Hall Alliance members.

McKay, publisher of The County Times, said it will be interesting to see how campaign finance reports will shake out for the Town Hall Alliance and its candidates when the next report is released on Aug. 17.

“Other candidates have said Rossignol quoted full page political ads at $700 a piece. At that cost, a quick look at the last few issues shows that paper is running at least $1,000 worth of free ads, or in-kind ads if that’s what they’re calling them now, in each issue,” McKay said. “It would be interesting to see what a criminal investigation into Rossignol’s skirting of the $10,000 political contribution limit would find … there has been Town Hall Alliance ads appearing there for the better part of a year.”

Staff Writer Sarah Miller contributed to this article.

You can contact Sean Rice using seanrice(at)

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