Mount Rainier Manager: ‘Culture change’ has come to City Hall

Mount Rainier City Manager Miranda Braatz asserts her administration has undergone a “complete culture change” since financial and sexual harassment scandals within the city police department became public knowledge in May 2018. Braatz’s comments came in an interview conducted by Route 1 Reporter after this publication obtained sexual harassment training documents used in an all-staff training session that took place in March 2018. The documents, embedded below this story, were obtained through Maryland Public Information Act requests. “We’ve done a complete culture change since that training and since our investigation. It started from the top up, starting with explicitly allowing anybody to go to HR at any time if they had any questions or wanted to say anything or wanted to talk or wanted to report anything,” said Braatz.

Doc Drop: Mt. Rainier sexual harassment recommendations

Mount Rainier officials have released a portion of the raw text of recommendations from an investigator’s report into sexual harassment allegations within the city’s police department. The release of the document is in response to a Maryland Public Information Act request filed by Route 1 Reporter seeking copies of the report. The document is embedded below this article. For better or worse, Maryland’s Public Information Act provides broad exemptions excluding personnel records from disclosure, especially records related to disciplinary actions and performance evaluations. Mount Rainier officials have said these exemptions prevent them from revealing more specific details of the allegations.

Doc Drop: Read the Mt. Rainier parking meter revenue emails

Mount Rainier city officials are investigating financial irregularities within the Mount Rainier Police Department. At least one aspect of that investigation focuses on a sudden 2017 decline in the city’s parking meter revenue collection rate. Route 1 Reporter produced a report diving into those parking meter funds – they literally are coins – using emails obtained through Maryland’s Public Information Act. You can read those emails below. For the full context, check out our in-depth report on Mount Rainier’s parking meter revenue funds here.

Investigators eye big drop in Mt. Rainier meter money

Parking meter revenue collections fell off a cliff in Mount Rainier in 2017 and into 2018. Pictured above: Michael Scott, former chief of police of the Mount Rainier Police Department, at right. Victor Kenworthy, Mount Rainier senior patrol officer and president of the Mount Rainier Fraternal Order of Police, the city’s police union, stands on the left. This sudden drop in parking meter coin collections is one aspect of an internal investigation into the finances of the Mount Rainier Police Department. Email correspondence between Mount Rainier city officials, obtained by Route 1 Reporter, shows just how dramatically the city’s parking meter revenue collections dropped in recent years, as well as steps city officials took to rectify the issue once the anomaly was discovered.

Mount Rainier police officer dies

Cody Laughran, a police officer with the Mount Rainier Police Department, died this past weekend. Laughran was 25. According to a statement from the city of Mount Rainier, he died at his home in Columbia Sunday morning. He was not on duty at the time. The cause of death has not been confirmed, the announcement said. Howard County police said Monday there were no suspicious circumstances or indications of foul play in Laughran’s death.

Mt. Rainier Mayor says MRPD allegations not “corroborated”

Mount Rainier Mayor Malinda Miles said allegations relating to investigations of the Mount Rainier Police Department have not been “corroborated” to her satisfaction. Miles issued this statement in the July edition of The Message, Mount Rainier’s municipal newsletter. Released late June 2018, Copies of the newsletter were circulated June 29 on social media by Mount Rainier’s Ward Two Councilor Celina Benitez. Copies of The Message have not been posted to the city’s website since January 2017. The brief 69-word statement reads in full:

“As most are aware, several city officers are under investigation (parking tickets, their handling and reporting; sexual misconduct).

Mount Rainier Councilor reveals new details on police department investigation

New details about the nature of an investigation into “financial irregularities” within the Mount Rainier Police Department have been released in a wide-ranging and detailed newsletter released shortly after 3 p.m., Wednesday by Councilor Shivali Shah (Ward Two). Pictured above: Councilor Shivali Shah, at right, and fellow Ward Two Councilor Byran Knedleer. Shah released new details about an investigation into Mount Rainier’s police department. A number of police department staff, including one patrol officer and former Mount Rainier Police Chief Michael Scott, were placed on administrative leave as the first details of the investigation became public earlier this year. Shah’s newsletter provides what is now the most detailed publicly-released account of the investigation by Mount Rainier elected officials or city staff.