An Annapolis-based consultant hired to work on the proposed downtown Frederick hotel and conference center has filed criminal charges against a county resident she claims harassed her online.
According to documents filed Jan. 24 with the District Court of Maryland for Anne Arundel County, Mechelle Kerns — whom hotel developer Plamondon Hospitality Partners hired as an archaeological consultant for the project — has filed harassment charges against Frederick County resident Patrick Allen.
Kerns claims in the documents that she is a “victim of sustained and repeated harassment” by Allen online, which she likened to cyber-bullying.
She declined to comment on the case outside of the court documents.
Allen is charged with harassment via a persistent pattern of conduct and electronic mail harassment. Kerns wrote in the document that the alleged harassment occurred between Aug. 1, 2016, and Jan. 5, 2017.
Allen said Thursday that the complaint is “factually incorrect.”
“I believe [Kerns] is harboring a resentment because her controversial public comments were challenged,” he said.
Allen declined to comment further on the accusations.
Allen, a page administrator for a Facebook group called “The Frederick Chronicles,” has publicly opposed the project with an array of posts on the social media site. The posts have continually said the site proposed for the hotel is contaminated and have targeted various project proponents, including Kerns.
Kerns accuses Allen in the charging documents of using the “Frederick Chronicles” page, which she called a fake newspaper, to “harass, attack, discredit, and condemn” her professional work and personal conduct.
Kerns wrote that the “attacks continued and increased” after she sent Allen a registered letter asking him to cease and desist pending her intention to pursue a lawsuit against him for libel and slander.
Kerns sent the letter, dated Aug. 28, to Allen and his wife, Diana Allen, threatening to sue both of them if they did not meet certain conditions within 10 days. The conditions included ceasing and desisting any social media posts spreading false claims against the hotel project development, and issuing public apologies.
Instead, the court documents said Allen posted the correspondence on his page and sent notice with the text of the letter to this newspaper.
The court documents also accuse Allen of using electronic communication to call for Kerns’ removal from the project and allege he contacted the U.S. Naval Academy, where she works as an adjunct professor, and attempted to have her fired from her teaching position.
She also wrote that Allen posted “harassing and demeaning fake newspaper articles and cartoons” in September, October and November.
Kerns wrote in the document that Allen has affected her ability to earn a living, and discredited her among her peers, clients, the public and outside employees. She further wrote that the internet postings have the potential to affect her ability to earn a living in the future.
Kerns claims in the document that she has “dozens of examples” of his posts, some of which have been removed and others that remain in the public domain.
“In some cases he would post items regarding me, my work and the project, up to five times a day,” Kerns wrote in the document.
She called the situation “extremely distressing” and wrote that it has affected both her personal and professional relationships. She also stated in the court document that she does not know Allen and has never met him face to face.
Both charges are misdemeanors. Upon conviction, maximum sentence for the persistent harassment charge is 90 days in jail, a $500 fine, or both. The electronic mail harassment charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and/or a $500 fine.
A preliminary inquiry for the case is set for 8:30 a.m. Feb. 24 in Glen Burnie District Court.
A preliminary inquiry is a pretrial proceeding conducted by a judicial officer when a defendant has been charged via citation or summons with a jailable offense. Allen will reportedly be advised of his or her rights, the charges, and the penalties during the hearing.
The proposed downtown hotel and conference center would be built on land currently owned by a partnership of members of the Randall family, some of whom are also members of a separate partnership, Randall Family LLC, which owns The Frederick News-Post.