June 6, 2018
CHARLES COUNTY ETHICS COMMISSION
Charles County Attorney Conference Room
June 6, 2018
Stephen Fitzgerald, Esquire, Vice Chairman
Henry Collins, Jr.
OTHERS PRESENT: Rhonda Weaver, County Attorney, Counsel to the Commission, Melody Weschler, Clerk to the Commission.
CALL TO ORDER FOR SESSION:
The meeting was called to order by Vice Chairman Fitzgerald at 6:31 p.m.
Ms. Weaver introduced new members, Lisa Elliott and Natalie Cotton. Ms. Weschler swore in both new members.
Ms. Weaver explained to Ms. Elliott and Ms. Cotton open meetings training.
A motion was made by Mr. Fitzgerald to approve the March 14, 2018 open meeting minutes with the change as noted, seconded by Mr. Collins, motion carried.
Election of Officers:
The members decided to defer the election of officers to the next meeting.
Mr. Fitzgerald explained to the new members what the Commission is looking for when reviewing the financial disclosure forms. The Commission reviewed the 2017 Financial Disclosure Forms. The Clerk was advised by the Commission members to send the financial disclosure forms that were not properly filled out back to the person to be completed. The returned financial disclosure forms will be brought back before the Commission at the next meeting. The Commission advised Ms. Weaver to present the list of persons not submitting forms to the Commissioners for further instruction on how to proceed.
Advisory Opinion 2018-02 – The Ethics Commission received a referral from the County Attorney’s Office regarding an inquiry as to whether a business operated by an elected official’s spouse and had performed services for the County constituted a conflict of interest pursuant to County Code §170-5 (prohibited conduct and interests.).
Ms. Weaver gave background information as follows:
The County Attorney’s Office received MPIA request for financial disclosure statements of several individuals. The County Attorney’s Office responded to the MPIA, emailing the response to the requestor, also emailing it to the people whose financial disclosure forms were requested.
The County Attorney’s Office received the ethics inquiry on April 28, 2018 and again on April 30, 2018.
The Commission reviewed several documents including but not limited to: documents submitted in response to the MPIA requests, emails between the requestor of this inquiry and the County Attorney’s Office and statements from County employees with knowledge of the selection of this company to provide services. Information was provided regarding the invoices paid and the procurement procedures.
The Commission discussed the inquiry and the information provided. Mr. Fitzgerald moved that the Commission make a determination that there was no evidence that the conflict of interest rules was violated. The determination was based on two grounds: (1) that there was no evidence that the elected official was involved in the company being selected for any of the services and (2) that the elected official disclosed their connection with this business on their financial disclosure statements. Seconded by Mr. Collins, all in favor.
The Commission requested Ms. Weaver to draft an advisory opinion for them to review.
Ms. Weaver advised the Commission that there were two other ethic inquiries for the Commission to review. The Commission agreed to review these inquiries at the next meeting.
Mr. Fitzgerald asked if the Commission was willing to move the meeting time up to 5:30. All members were in agreement.
The Commission requested that Ms. Weschler schedule the next meeting as soon as possible in July.
ADJOURNMENT: With no further business Mr. Fitzgerald made motion to adjourn the meeting at 7:11 p.m., seconded by Mr. Collins, all in favor.
Melody Weschler, Clerk