On May 25, 2020, attorney Bernadette Sargeant, a partner at the Washington, DC, law firm Stinson LLP, presented to County Attorney E. Wesley Adams the final report of her investigation into allegations of improper workplace behavior filed by District 2 Commissioner Thomasina Coates (D) and County Administrator Mark Belton against each other. The 27-page report, officially titled the “Report of Investigation of Allegations Made by County Administrator Mark Belton and by County Commissioner Thomasina Coates” and commonly referred to as the “Sargeant report,” served as the basis for the Board of County Commissioners’ June 9, 2020 vote in closed session to bar Coates from contact with, or any administrative actions related to, Belton. The report is also at the heart of a series of lawsuits arising from actions taken during a contentious closed session of the Board of Charles County Commissioners in December 2022, during which Coates, Commissioners’ President Reuben B. Collins II (D), and newly elected District 4 Commissioner Ralph E. Patterson (D) attempted to vote to fire Belton despite the restrictions emplaced against Coates.
In addition to a detailed summary and analysis of the two parties’ allegations and a summary of findings, the report includes two lists of documents. The first is a list of materials reviewed by Sargeant and her team during her investigation of Coates’ and Belton’s counter-allegations. The second, attached to the report in the form of an appendix, is a list of materials reviewed by Sargeant during a separate, concurrent investigation into allegations by County Chief of Capital Services John Stevens of discriminatory actions against him by senior county personnel including Belton.
During the circuit court case, the judge ordered the unsealing of the report of Sargeant’s investigation into the Coates and Belton counter-claims. The report of her investigation of Stevens’ allegations has not been publicly released. However, summaries of both reports, which were prepared in November 2021 by the county’s human resources department at Belton’s request, were publicly disclosed in the filings of a separate civil rights lawsuit brought by Stevens.
In response to a Public Information Act request filed by TLR in late 2023, the Charles County Office of the County Attorney undertook the formidable task of gathering, reviewing, redacting, and releasing documents listed in the Sargeant Report to the public. As a public service, TLR is making the complete report, the internal summaries of both Sargeant investigations, and the released documents reviewed in both investigations available for review and download. The documents are organized as follows: