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Recently, I had the chance to interview Baltimore County Attorney Mike Field regarding Councilman Todd Crandell’s legislative aide Ron Metzger and his conduct that was caught on video.
Before we get into the proverbial nuts and bolts of this issue, let’s take a look at a definition that is not to be found anywhere in the entire Baltimore County code pertaining to ethical conduct:
Rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad. ethics : an area of study that deals with ideas about what is good and bad behavior : a branch of philosophy dealing with what is morally right or wrong.
Believe it or not, you will not find any reference to ethics in the county code.
Folks, we are not dealing with rocket science here; rather, this matter is all about a person’s character and respect for a fellow human being. That is the bottom line to this whole issue.
What is also perplexing about this matter is the constant deflection of accountability from our elected officials.
Before I get back to my interview with the county attorney, I contacted Al Mendelson, who is the chairman of the Republican Central Committee. We talked at length about ethical conduct, and it boiled down to one sentiment from him, which some of you may think is a copout: “People should not cuss at each other.”
I found that comment from Mr. Mendelson strange because, when I asked him if he had seen the video and at which point the victim used any vulgar language, he replied that he missed the first part of it. To me, that shows a complete disconnect from any capable leader in dealing with an issue of un-civility, especially in these divisive times.
In reality, much of this could have been avoided. Once the video went viral, at the very least the councilman and Mr. Metzger could have addressed this issue with a simple apology. However, that did not happen, and it seems that everyone else in county government has turned a blind eye to this incredibly offensive conduct by someone that should be held to a higher standard of conduct due to his prestige and power of office.
When I asked Mr. Field if he had seen the video, he stated that he did not. I found that to be a little bit disingenuous, since every county official was contacted regarding this incident.
To generalize my lengthy interview with Mr. Field, the conversation covered everything from the definition of ethics pertaining to county employees to the distinction between legislative and executive branches of government.
Regarding Mr. Metzger’s conduct, Mr. Field’s made this comment:
You would have to defer to the councilman regarding the employee’s conduct.
I told Mr. field, we tried that and there was no response from the councilman’s office. The only person that reached out to us about this issue was Delegate Ric Metzgar who felt the conduct of councilman’s legislative aide went well beyond the pale and he should be held accountable. Folks that was the only elected official that actually had the courage to speak out on this issue.
My reply to Mr. Field was that this could open up a can of worms regarding the standard by which government employees and their civilian counterparts conduct themselves.
The next question I posed to Mr. Field was, “Does this mean that a person can address any member of the either legislative or executive branch of county government in the same vulgar manner?” I also told Mr. Field that I felt that the response I was receiving was rather ludicrous since there were no options to deal with the situation other than his suggestion that involved a civil tort against the offender. Based on the earlier response from the county attorney, the question was who is actually responsible for this matter.
Mr. Field made other statements that were also rather complexing:
”This is the first time that I have ever encountered this type of situation.”
Mr. Field went on to suggest the possibility of criminal charges being filed, but that would be a gray area because of the county code.
I did ask the county attorney if any of this type of conduct would fall under the guidelines of human resources. This also was a gray area regarding the county code, not to mention the legalese banter back and forth between myself and Mr. Field.
After some time researching the various sections of the Baltimore County Code, I did find one issue listed under Section – 4 – Human Resources, which read as follows:
§ 4-1-101. – DEFINITIONS.(a) In general. In this article the following words have the meanings indicated.
(b) Appointing authority.
(1) “Appointing authority” has the meaning stated in Rule 1.07 of the Personnel Rules.
(2) “Appointing authority” includes the authority to hire, discipline, or dismiss an employee.
After all of the back-and-forth, what is really strange is that if you go to The Baltimore County Code and do a search for Rule 1.07 of the Personnel Rules, nothing shows up.
Once again, The Baltimore Post sent an email to the Council Attorney Tom Peddicord regarding, as per the county code that states the class involving ethics is available online. Regarding our request here was the response from Mr. Peddicord:
On 6/25/2018 3:04 PM, Thomas Peddicord wrote:
Mr. Beeler,The ethics training course is not online. I can supply you with the written course material that was distributed to attendees of the in-person training sessions held earlier this year. Please let me know.
My personal opinion is that this whole situation could’ve been resolved by one simple definition inserted into the code listed above. Instead, you have is a quagmire of legalese that constitutes a maze that even the county attorney had trouble navigating.
The one thing I did find interesting regarding comments on our Facebook page pertaining to this article was that there were numerous posters taking the side of Mr. Metzger, which would be considered the norm. One particular comment was very well structured grammatically and challenged me to show where in the county code the actual violation of Mr. Metzger applied. I started to feel, while writing this column, that comment was a déjà vu moment.
As always, our motto is: “You read; you decide.”
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