November 13, 2014 11:08 am ET
Ethics Commission files one complaint on its own initiative in more than a decade.
Source: Out of Commission?
Folks, I have to say, it’s a great gig if you can get it.
As noted in the subhead of this blog, “The Ethics Commission has filed one complaint on its own initiative during the period (2003-2013) in question.”
To be honest, I was not aware that the Ethics Commission is not a county government agency, but rather, under the current situation and law, the Commission is hired by the County Executive on contractual basis.
The Commission falls under the purview of the county office of law, and its duties are listed in this section of the county code under Title 1, 7-101. (Click on the link to read all of the legalese.)
But here’s the rest of the story, as the late Paul Harvey used to say.
The head of the Ethics Commission has to be a lawyer, and that person is appointed by the County Executive to the post, which pays $30,000 per year. There are also five board members who work on a volunteer basis, so I assume that they get no compensation.
So, to sum it up, the head of the Ethics Commission has received about $300,000 of your tax dollars for, according to the letter, cost vs. work.
With one complaint in 10 years, I don’t see that as a good return on investment for our tax dollars. Do you?
Just to make it clear, the county code calls for the Ethics Commission to, among other things, do the following under this section of the code:
§ 7-1-105. COMPLAINTS.
(2) On its own motion, the Commission may issue a complaint to a respondent alleging a violation of this title.
Pretty straight forward language, don’t you think?
With all of that said, I took the extra step of calling Ms. Elaine Katz, Executive Director of the Ethics Commission, for a response on a blog I wrote some time ago on Chief Johnson and his residency requirement to live within the county upon being appointed Chief of Police. Here is what I was told:
“Well, Mr. Beeler, you can file a complaint.”
(Blogger’s Note: Sure, I’ll get right on that.)
I reminded Ms. Katz of the county code, along with the fact that the person answering the phone was giving out incorrect information regarding the duties of the commission. I told Ms. Katz that I didn’t need to file a complaint because, once aware of the situation, the Commission was supposed to take action.
Or at least fake it reasonably well.
“We don’t have time to read the papers every day Mr. Beeler,” said Ms. Katz, piling on to the inactivity. It was an obvious statement, but I decided to digress.
I do want to point out that Ms. Katz did say that she would retrain the secretary who answered the phone regarding the right statements to make to the public.
My first thought about those statements was that the Commission’s motto should be, “See no evil, hear no evil, and collect money.”
That or, “Never bite the hand that feeds you” would work, I believe.
With all that being said, read my letter from a PIA I filed with the Commission. You’ll notice the following paragraph from Ms. Katz, which reads as follows:
“Finally, you write, ‘In addition I am making you aware of the following concerning an ethical issue concerning where does Chief Jim Johnson live?’ You included a link to a blog post you wrote about the matter and reference potential criminal sanctions. This is duly noted.”
I call dully noted means back to the bridge game on that one.
I recently received a phone call from the Commission advising me that they have decided not to pursue the Chief Johnson issue. There was no reason given for the decision.
“$300,000 well spent” is all that went through my mind.
So, drawing on my connection with a Dundalk High student who cuts my lawn, I was able to gain access to a tape of a particular community meeting where I asked Mr. Kamenetz a pointed and direct question concerning the Chief.
Go ahead and watch. I’ll wait.
As you can see by the reaction of Mr. Kamenetz, this was not a subject he wanted to dwell on, or even discuss.
What is even crazier about this whole issue is that, when I was advised the Ethics Commission was not going to look at the obvious (it pays to know people in high places), the person who called said, “Mr. Beeler, you can still file a complaint.”
To me, that doesn’t make a lot of sense, since I have already been told the Commission is doing nothing about this important issue. To that end, what good is filing a complaint? I’m assuming that they want a second opportunity to tell me, “nanny nanny, boo boo.”
Like I said, it’s a good gig if you can get it, because you don’t have to bother with reading the papers and keeping current with what is happening in the County.
I’m guessing the bridge games must be pretty intense.
As for the Chief and his residency issue, I would say he no longer has to worry about the county code and the potential 90 days and $1,000 a day fine. He does, however, need to be mindful of the new council members who are coming to the table. They may not subscribe to the old “ignorance is bliss” theory.
Not that I am calling the Ethics Commission ignorant … just blissful.