A pastor in Walkersville, looking to clear his name, is saying he may consider legal action against a local news website that published an inaccurate report.
“It’s just very troubling to me,” the Rev. Philip Curran said, “that somebody can put anything on the Internet and peddle it as true.”
In advance of a public hearing about crime in Walkersville last week, GladeValley.net, a news site covering the town, published a post about residents’ concerns about police activity at a house on Fulton Avenue.
The story included allegations about residents of the house, and about the Rev. Curran, whose church rents out the house, that state police and court records, in checks by The Frederick News-Post, do not substantiate.
A resident of the house in question declined to comment when a Frederick News-Post reporter called her because, the woman said, the family was also considering legal action.
GladeValley.net site manager Mike Kuster, who did not write the article but did review it before it went online, ran an apology later that day that stated that the author of the article, John Culver, would no longer be writing for GladeValley.net.
Kuster said he was confronted by the resident of the Fulton Avenue home mentioned in the article after the public hearing, so he removed the story from the website.
“That’s a good start,” said Richard Bricken, a legal representative for the residents of the house. “And if nothing occurs, then my experience is that time will take care of itself.”
Even though the piece was deleted, Curran said the damage was already done.
The story was shared more than 600 times on Facebook, he said. It was also featured on the blog, fredericklocalyokel.com.
Curran expressed concern about the damage done to his reputation, adding that he heard through his Glade United Church of Christ congregation that at least one person worried he might be in some kind of legal trouble.
Curran has been in contact with lawyers who said Wednesday it was not clear if he will take legal action regarding the posting.
The Frederick News-Post requested an interview with the author of the article through Kuster, but received no response as of Friday.
Kuster took responsibility for the reporting errors, he said, and he did not correct them when editing because he misunderstood the precise definitions of relevant legal terms.
“I’m going to certainly check more closely if we ever have anything like this again,” he said. “I think it was a matter of semantics.”
The inaccurate statement regarding Curran was based on a report from a neighbor, Kuster said, which was not confirmed with official sources.
“I think it’s been handled incorrectly all around,” Kuster continued, adding that elected officials and the church should have been more proactive about neighbors’ concerns, and he should have been more careful editing the report.
“We all need to work together to make sure that the community heals from this,” he said.
He has plans to personally apologize to the residents of the Fulton Avenue house, but he said he has not had a chance to do so because of work obligations.
Kuster ran an unsuccessful campaign for a commissioner’s seat in Walkersville and announced a write-in campaign for burgess after the crime hearing last week. However, he said, the timing of the story had nothing to do with the election.
Rather, Kuster continued, it was intended to publicize neighbors’ unheeded concerns in advance of the crime hearing.
One resident contacted church leadership in 2012 in a strongly worded email requesting a “plan of action to address our safety concerns ... that must include the removal of said tenants,” from the Fulton Ave. house, according to emails provided to The News-Post by Curran.
Officers responded to 24 calls for service at the property since 2005, according to the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, including two “follow up visits” and three calls to assist other officers.
Curran said that he has listened to concerns by neighbors, but “the Gospel does not allow for eviction.”