By Ryan Miner
Rickard Theodore “Rick” J.R. Byrd, 45, was first elected to Boonsboro’s Town Council in May 2016, earning the most number of votes – 285 – among the five-person candidate field.
Byrd, a Republican, has since been the anchor of the conservative wing of the Town Council, and he’s pushed hard against the policies supported by some of the more moderate or centrist members of the Council. Byrd often clashes with his colleagues on the Council, claiming that Boonsboro is spending too much money on certain public projects.
In recent weeks, several Boonsboro residents contacted A Miner Detail about Byrd’s reportedly aggressive behavior towards Town residents and his fellow members of the Town Council.
Some Town residents have described Byrd as a “bully,” “overly aggressive,” “unstable,” and “angry,” while others have characterized Byrd’s recent actions as the nexus of dysfunction currently enveloping the Town Council.
Some Town residents have likened Byrd’s behavior to President Donald Trump’s own pugnacious style, and some residents even told A Miner Detail that Byrd’s political beliefs seemingly align with that of the “alt-right.”
On Sunday, September 3, I sent the following email to Byrd’s public email account – RByrdTOB@gmail.com – as listed on the Town of Boonsboro’s website:
Good Evening, Councilman Byrd,
I’m putting together a series of stories and podcasts in an effort to highlight the Boonsboro Town Council and all that is happening in the Boonsboro community.
I would like to invite you to be my guest on A Miner Detail’s online radio show to talk about what’s going on in Boonsboro. Also, I’d like to sit down with you sometime soon – at your convenience, of course – for a one-on-one interview.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at (301) 991-4220.
Byrd did not respond to my email request.
Later in the week, on Wednesday, Sept. 6, I sent the following email to Boonsboro’s mayor and Town Council, excluding Byrd from the same email:
Good Morning, Mr. Mayor and members of the Boonsboro Town Council,
I am writing an article about some of the internal hostilities enveloping Boonsboro’s Town Council.
Could you describe your relationship with Rick Byrd? It’s my understanding that Councilman Byrd has been particularly hostile and aggressive toward some of you, and his attitude has somewhat impeded the Council’s work.
Many town residents of Boonsboro have written A Miner Detail with concerns about Rick Byrd’s harsh partisan rhetoric that dominates the Council. Some residents have likened Mr. Byrd to Donald Trump or “Trumpian” in nature. Some have even regarded Mr. Byrd as “alt-right.”
I have seen some of Mr. Byrd’s social media accounts intentionally target members of the community over their political beliefs.
If you would prefer to speak off the record, please contact me at (301) 991-4220. Whatever information you may wish to share with me will be completely confidential.
Nevertheless, I would appreciate any on-the-record comments you may have that I can add to the story I am set to publish in the next day or so.
The mayor, nor any member of the Town Council, did not respond to my request for comment – until today.
Byrd called my cell phone this afternoon at 12:33 p.m., leaving me the following voicemail message.
Um, I really would appreciate it if you’d quit harassing me in general and sending out, uh, [inaudible] emails calling me alt-right on your email to the Town Council members, aside from myself. They did forward that to me, by the way.
Uh, I don’t appreciate that. I don’t know where you get your information at. I’m here to do what’s right for the town. Um, whether I’m Republican, Democrat, that has nothing to do with how I handle business here.
Uh, if you like to speak to me directly, which I doubt you will, um, because I know the person that you are, uh, my phone number is (301) 991-4908. Uh, we could have a really long conversation.
Uh, I saw some of the misinterpretations of what reality that you have made in the past. I don’t agree with it at all. And I think these are just blatant attacks me, and I don’t appreciate it. So, if you would like to call and talk with me or even meet for a cup of coffee – I’ll buy – uh, just let me know; we can meet face-to-face and talk things through.
But, yeah, uh, I would appreciate the attacks stop before I call the police.
I’m getting tired of, as a Town representative, being attacked by all sides over things that I have never done. So, put it to rest, or be a man and call me or meet me where we can actually have a conversation – and we will put this to rest.
But do not do things behind my back; I think that’s very snakish. And I don’t expect it will happen again.
Thank you, bye.
Immediately after I received Byrd’s voicemail, at 12:34 p.m., I dialed the phone number he provided. Councilman Byrd answered the call and proceeded to berate me for nearly 34 minutes.
Nearly halfway through our conversation, Byrd realized that he failed to establish basic ground rules when speaking with a journalist and/or blogger, indicating that everything he has said to me and will say is “off-the-record” and that “I cannot use.”
While I typically wouldn’t abide by such an arrangement with any public official, I will honor Councilman Byrd’s request this time only and refrain from reporting the content of our conversation. If Byrd so chooses to release our private conversation, then, and only then, I, too, will report what was exchanged between us.
However, throughout our 34-minute call, Byrd demanded repeatedly that I “never contact him again at the number I called him on,” and to stay 100 feet away from his home. He also claimed he would contact the police. To Byrd’s credit, he denied his political beliefs aligned with the “alt-right.”
To date, I have sent only one email to Byrd’s publicly-listed email account, asking him to go on the record with me for a one-on-one interview.
Today and on September 3 were the only two occasions, to my knowledge, that I have contacted Byrd through any form of communication. Byrd does, however, claim that he and I met previously and shook hands. While he is likely telling the truth, I cannot recall that particular interaction with him.
I explained to Byrd that I was putting together a story based on what has been reported to A Miner Detail about him from Town residents. I asked Byrd on several occasions if he wanted to comment on-the-record. He refused, but then demanded I not misconstrue his words. I asked him twice during our call whether he would be willing to go on-the-record with me on A Miner Detail Radio. He refused.
Byrd did ask that I print that he intends to run for assistant mayor of Boonsboro in the 2018 election and will, two years later, run for mayor, and win.
Shortly after our phone call ended, Byrd sent a Facebook friend request to my personal Facebook page.
Should Byrd be willing to go on-the-record with me in the future, I would be happy to entertain such an interview.
At 10:31 a.m., Monday, September 11, I received a YouTube privacy complaint concerning the audio of Councilman Byrd’s voicemail to me.
In case Councilman Byrd requests a refresher in First Amendment and Maryland law, a person leaving a voicemail message is deemed to consent by allowing the recording and gives up any reasonable expectation of privacy.
Except for telephone conversations, oral conversations must have a reasonable expectation of privacy to be protected from interception. Those leaving voicemail messages – especially elected officials such as Councilman Byrd – should fully expect that such messages will be recorded and broadcasted and distributed.
Dear Ryan Miner,
This is to notify you that we have received a privacy complaint from an individual regarding your content:
The information reported as violating privacy is at 0_41
The complaint will be reviewed by the YouTube Team and may be removed pursuant to our Privacy Guidelines. For more information, please review our Privacy Guidelines http://www.youtube.com/t/