Wednesday, July 18, 2018
CHARLES COUNTY ETHICS COMMISSION
Commissioners Meeting Room
July 18, 2018
Henry Collins, Chairman
Stephen Fitzgerald, Esquire, Vice Chairman
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 Chairman Collins at 5:45 p.m.
A motion was made by Mr. Fitzgerald to approve the June 6, 2018 open meeting minutes with the changes as noted, seconded by Mr. Collins, motion carried.
Financial Disclosure Forms:
The Commission reviewed corrected financial forms and new forms received since the last meeting.
Town Hall Meetings Inquiry -continued from July 11, 2018 – The Ethics Commission received a referral from the County Attorney’s Office regarding an inquiry as to whether town hall meetings being held prior to the primary election by a specific Commissioner are being used as a campaign event at taxpayers’ expense and was this an inappropriate use of county funds. Ms. Weaver provided the Commission with the information from the last meeting and additional information as requested by the Commission. All documents were posted on BoardDocs for the Commission to review. After discussion by the Commission, Mr. Fitzgerald made a motion that the inquiry be dismissed on the basis that the information provided no specific allegations or proof of the misuse of county funds for a specific commissioner’s political campaign. There was not sufficient evidence of an ethics violation or that the town hall meetings were in fact campaign events. Ms. Elliott seconded the motion. Mr. Collins opposed. The vote passed 2 to 1.
Ms. Weaver advised the Commission that on July 12, 2018 she did receive confirmation that the State Board of Elections was referring to the Commission the inquiry they received regarding unethical use of County funds as it falls outside of the State Board’s authority. The referral involved the same town hall meetings and the misuse of County funds. Ms. Weaver provided the Commission with the information received from the State Board, which included the response sent to the State Board by the subject Commissioner’s campaign committee representative. The campaign official also provided the County Attorney office with this information. Ms. Weaver confirmed that the information received from the State Board and the campaign official was the same.
Ms. Weaver explained that the inquiry from the State Board was basically the same as the first inquiry whose review began on July 11, 2018. After discussion by the Commission, Mr. Fitzgerald made a motion that the inquiry be dismissed on the basis that the information provided was not sufficient evidence of an ethics violation or that the town hall meetings were in fact campaign events. Ms. Elliott seconded the motion. Mr. Collins opposed. The vote passed 2 to 1.
The Commission requested Ms. Weaver to prepare advisory opinion. Ms. Weaver advised that she would prepare the opinion and email to each member by Friday. She reiterated that the Commission members should only respond to her directly and not the other members of the Commission.
A motion was made by Mr. Fitzgerald to go into closed session, seconded by Mr. Collins, unanimously carried. The Commission went into closed session at 7:10 p.m. in accordance with General Provisions Article §3-305(b) to discuss: (1) The appointment, employment, assignment, promotion, discipline, demotion, compensation, removal, resignation, or performance evaluation of appointees, employees, or officials over whom this public body has jurisdiction; or any other personnel matter that affects one or more specific and (7) “To consult with counsel to obtain legal advice.” The matters related to personnel actions taken in response to completion of financial disclosure statements and legal advice regarding one submission.
At 7:24 p.m. a motion was made by Mr. Collins to go back into open session, seconded by Mr. Fitzgerald, unanimously carried.
ADJOURNMENT: With no further business Mr. Fitzgerald made motion to adjourn the meeting at 7:25 p.m., seconded by Mr. Collins, all in favor.
Melody Weschler, Clerk