October 28, 2013 Minutes of the Hurlock Mayor & Council Meeting
As the former Clerk/Treasurer of the Town of Hurlock I, Kathleen Clough, would like to present information to the Council and Townspeople of Hurlock to bring clarity to allegations that have been made against Councilman Reverend Charles T. Cephas, Sr. over the course of many years by Mayor Joyce Spratt.
Prior to November 25, 2009 I had never met or even heard of a woman named Joyce Spratt. On the advice of the late former Councilman William Mills, Joyce Spratt contacted me and asked if I would consider helping her as a new Mayor, working with her as the Clerk/Treasurer for the Town of Hurlock. After meeting with her at my home, Mrs. Spratt went to the Council seeking their approval and vote to appoint me to the position and to approve a contract starting December 8, 2009.
Upon being hired and sorting out what needed to be done, Mayor Spratt made it very clear that her number one priority was to “get” former Mayor Don Bradley and Councilman Charles Cephas. Mayor Spratt wanted me to go through all of the files and records to find something that she could use against them and take to the State’s Attorney or State Prosecutor to have them investigated. It was her hope that they would be indicted. After a brief overview of records I informed Mayor Spratt that there had not been anything done that was illegal. I told her and her husband, Joseph Spratt, and Councilman Michael Nordstrom, who were also adamant that I focus on finding things for an indictment, that they may not like how Mayor Bradley administered town business, but he did nothing that was illegal or outside of his authority or out of line with other Municipalities throughout the Country, and neither had Councilman Charles Cephas or any other Council member.
Mayor Spratt insisted that a more thorough inspection of all of the files be undertaken. Mayor Spratt, Councilman Nordstrom, and Mr. Joseph Spratt were becoming angry that I was taking too long to send information to the Maryland Office of the State Prosecutor, to the extent that Mr. Spratt would yell and curse at me in the Mayor’s office, as well as rant to my husband in his place of business, because they feared they would miss the Statute of Limitations. During this time on at least two occasions I stated to Mr. John Avery, who is now the Clerk/Treasurer, that I did not take the job to hurt anyone; I took it to help the Town because of my regard for William Mills.
I compiled the information, developed a spreadsheet of all expenditures and wrote a narrative about former Mayor Don Bradley and Councilman Cephas outlining the activities that Mayor Spratt considered egregious and submitted them to the Office of the State Prosecutor. In response, after careful review, the State Prosecutor determined that there had been no wrongdoing by either party and therefore there was nothing to investigate.
Mayor Spratt informed me, and I have heard her tell others, that Councilman Cephas charged people $500 to join his Church; that people he counseled in his job with the Maryland Rural Development Council were asked to make a donation to his church prior to receiving his assistance, that he had done some things that were wrong at MRDC and that he cheated a couple out of their home in Woodsedge with his wrongdoing. Recently Mayor Spratt sent out a letter suggesting voters go to the Maryland Judiciary Case Search website to do a search for cases under his name. Ironically, there are also several entries for Mayor Spratt and another candidate that she supports. I read each case under Reverend Cephas’ name and there is not a single felony or criminal conviction, even though Mayor Spratt has told people he is a criminal and a felon. Those are serious lies to tell about another person, and can destroy another person’s life and reputation. I also spoke with the State Prosecutor myself just this morning. I shared with him how Police Chief Leslie Hutton stopped me after the last town meeting to tell me that there are “people” who are interested and asking about my license plates and that he wanted to give me a heads up that “People are interested” and that I am “being watched.” The State Prosecutor is very aware of what is going on in Hurlock, including the drug and gang activity that is being downplayed by Chief Hutton and mayor Spratt. After all of the allegations and lawsuits that Reverend Cephas has endured, the State Prosecutor is aware that all of Mayor Spratt’s allegations against him have been unfounded; just as all of the allegations against me have been unfounded. The State Prosecutor also shared that he knows that Reverend Cephas is a good man with a good heart who wants only to do good and help people, but he sometimes does not come across well.
Regrettably, I believed everything Mayor Joyce Spratt told me, and much worse, I repeated what she said without verification. Many of you have been taken in with Mayor Spratt’s stories about so many people, and many of you have also acted as her surrogate in repeating her lies to other people in town and beyond. According to Joyce Spratt, everyone but she is a liar, including our Senator.
Tonight I would like to publicly apologize to Councilman Reverend Charles Cephas and ask his forgiveness for believing without question Mayor Spratt’s vicious gossip that harmed him and his family and caused him to lose the respect of the public and local and State Officials, and be seen in a negative, but false, light.
I want to also go on the record as saying that there were a lot of things that Mayor Spratt told me about many people that I did not believe, much to her dismay. Mayor Spratt informed me that Councilman Christopher Adams was involved in wrongdoing. Maybe she told some of you the same things. However, her allegations against Councilman Adams were so exaggerated and vulgar that I knew they could not possibly be true; and they are not true. After that, I routinely disregarded her continuous gossip about so many of you who thought you were her friend.
There is nothing more insidious and harmful to a community than gossip and lies. It creates mistrust throughout the Town, pits people against each other and is only destructive; keeping things in chaos. When you add racism and hatred that starts at the top, the Town can never progress.
Last spring after a Council meeting, Town Attorney Hugh Carter Vinson asked if I would sit down and allow him to mediate a meeting with Councilman Cephas in my office. We discussed all of the above allegations against Rev. Cephas, as well as allegations he had made about me. After exchanging documents, including Court and bank documents exonerating Rev. Cephas of all wrongdoing, including false allegations that he caused another family’s foreclosure, we both realized that we each had false information. Reverend Cephas and I apologized to each other. Reverend Cephas’ lawsuit with the State of Maryland regarding the allegations against him in regard to his executive position at MRDC resulted in the Judge’s determination that all allegations were unfounded and Reverend Cephas performed his job in accordance with the law and all professional and ethical standards.
A review of the documents conclude:
Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development
April 11, 2011
Dear Rev. Cephas:
“You have not been debarred from participating in programs of the Department, and the Department currently is not seeking to debar you from its programs.”
Clarence J. Snuggs, Deputy Secretary
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Office of the Inspector General – Investigations
Appraisers Stores Building
103 South Gay Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
July 7, 2011
Subject: Advice of Case Closing
Maryland Rural Development Corporation/Charles Cephas
This is to advise that this office has completed its investigation on Maryland Rural Development Corporation/Charles Cephas.
This investigation was initiated based upon allegations received from United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Program Staff, alleging that Charles Cephas, Director, Maryland Rural Development Corporation (MRDC), committed HUD Grant fraud, relating to excess fees and charges for providing HUD funded debt counseling services. It was further alleged that Cephas and/or his church was receiving mortgage referral fees from Easy Loan Navigator or Prime Rate Funding.
Clients who received counseling certificates from MRDC were contacted by HUD-OIG, and no evidence of fraud was uncovered. Additionally, Cephas’ personal and church bank records were obtained and no evidence of fraud was detected.
Office of the State Prosecutor
January 4, 2013
Dear Reverend Cephas,
As per your request, this letter serves to memorialize the fact that during our inquiry of Hurlock City mayor Joyce Spratt and now former Town Treasurer Kathy Clough, this office did receive a complaint alleging misconduct by you. The purported wrongful activity, that you improperly submitted requests for reimbursement to the Town of Hurlock, was found to be without merit. Consequently, no criminal investigation was conducted. Since our Policy prohibits the identification of complainants, that information cannot be provided.
James I. Cabezas
Two weeks ago I met with members of the Hurlock Volunteer Fire Company to set the record straight. While eating in a Hurlock restaurant Reverend Cephas said hello to two firemen. They gave him the cold shoulder. When he asked why, they told him that Mayor Spratt had told them he did not support them and if he was elected Mayor he would cut their funding, raise taxes, had called them asinine, and other false allegations. Actually, during the 2012 Budget Workshop, Councilman Cephas stated that he believed Hurlock should have a paid fire department and the fact that we don’t is asinine. At this suggestion, Mayor Spratt snickered at Councilman Cephas and called him an idiot.
Mayor Spratt has misrepresented the truth regarding Councilman Cephas’ very proactive support for both departments for 14 years. For their record I gave them the Minutes from meetings of the Mayor and Council in 2007 and 2008, along with information about the 2012 Budget Workshop discussion. It is clear from these Minutes that over the course of three years Councilman Cephas was the designated Councilman who was holding joint meetings with the Hurlock Volunteer Fire Company and the Hurlock Police Department for the purpose of planning the building of a joint facility on the property where the current Police Station is located now. These meetings had the full support of former Mayor Bradley and the majority of the Council.
It is also a matter of public record that when the Council discussed the purchase of a new fire truck, Councilwoman Joyce Spratt voted against the purchase of a new vehicle and instead wanted them to purchase used equipment. It was Councilman Charles Cephas who supported the Fire Department to the extent that he argued on behalf of purchasing a new fire truck as a better business decision as it would have a warranty, no mileage and no wear and tear, therefore it would have a much longer serviceable life for the Town.
Mayor Spratt has repeated these tactics against others since taking office, to the extent that she has earned herself, and Hurlock, an unfortunate reputation throughout the County and State.
In early 2010 Mayor Joyce Spratt came to the Council and requested they pass a Resolution banning the use of take home police cars. The use of take home cars has been banned since 1985 in the personnel manual. The Council voted to grant Mayor Spratt’s request to ban the use of take home cars with a vote of 4-1. It was only Councilman Charles Cephas who opposed it, and voted against it, and argued for the police officers to have take-home cars. As a former police officer, Councilman Cephas listed all of the reasons he believed take home police cars are important. When Les Hutton was hired, Mayor Spratt informed him of the Town’s policy and the Resolution banning the use of take home police cars. At a public town meeting Mayor Spratt announced to the Council that Chief Hutton agreed with their decision to forbid the use of take home police cars, and had done his own study, and with gas at $2.40 a gallon, he could not justify the extravagance of take home police cars.
But in the spring of 2012, when gas was almost $4.00 a gallon, Chief Hutton unilaterally decided that he would allow each police officer, regardless of rank or years on the force, to have a take home car. He did this without the prior approval of the Mayor, and the Mayor did not seek approval of the Council or ask that they rescind the 2010 Resolution that she had asked them to introduce and pass. Mayor Spratt also failed to do any analysis of the increased costs, and did not bring a budget amendment to the Council. This is a serious violation of the Charter and the law. Even a year later, Mayor Spratt has not taken corrective action and Chief Hutton is acting in violation of the 2010 Resolution.
In August of 2012, Mayor Spratt and Chief Hutton met with members of the police department. I have been informed that they told them that it was I who took away their take home police cars. They also allegedly told them that I was the one who stood in the way of them getting raises. Both of these allegations are lies, and I would never have had the authority or power to do either. Both come under the powers of the governing body, which is the Council. It is on the recordings of Executive Sessions that I was the one who argued on behalf of the employees getting a raise because they had helped cut costs in our efforts to turn things around for the town. Mayor Spratt, Councilman Nordstrom, and Councilman Durham each stated that they opposed raises and that employees should be happy they have a job. Councilman Cephas was very supportive and voted for employees getting a raise in line with inflation and the CPI (Consumer Pricing Index.) These lies by your top elected official and top law enforcement official to turn the police force against me, has put me and my family in danger, and now Chief Hutton has acknowledged directly to me that I am a target.
I have been told that both Mayor Spratt and John Avery have accused me of taking and deleting records. This is another lie. I verified in a letter to Mr. Vinson, Town Attorney, that Chief Hutton had agreed to have my files downloaded to a flash drive and sent to me, so obviously I didn’t delete anything. Secondly, every keystroke on every town computer is saved on the Town server and the offsite server of BDK, and cannot be deleted, and cannot be erased from the hard drive. Additionally, I had an external hard drive on my desk that automatically backed up every document I ever created, and those documents are easily retrievable by most people with a basic ability to use a computer. The fact that there is no one proficient in technology for retrieval does not mean that the information is not there.
I have been informed that people in Hurlock hate me because of my support of Councilman Cephas in his bid for Mayor. I really don’t have a problem with that, because I know the alternative is not healthy for the Town, and it is time for at least one white person to stand up for truth and against a culture of lies, slander, gossip, inequality, hatred, bullying, intimidation, harassment, and racism, and disregard for the Charter and the laws of Maryland, without a standard of professionalism and ethical conduct by outop elected and appointed officials.