Emmitsburg Commissioners William B. O'Neil Jr. and
received letters from the town Ethics Commission last week officially informing
them of the two ethics complaints filed against them, and inviting both
commissioners to closed-door meetings with the commission to answer questions
about the complaints.
O'Neil said he will only attend public hearings on the inquiry, and that he
has hired an attorney. He said a public meeting is the only way he believes he
can have a fair hearing.
Elder said in a statement released this week that he "does not care to
participate in the Emmitsburg Ethics Committee's 'kangaroo court' and waste
town time and taxpayers' money." He said he will not meet with the three-member
The complaints allege that Elder and O'Neil used their position as
commissioners to harass town businesses, and reference the relationship between
both men and a group O'Neil helped to found, Citizens Organized to Preserve
O'Neil was president of the nonprofit organization before being elected to
the town commission in April, at which time he resigned as COPE president.
COPE leaders have been outspoken against
residential development in town, and both complaints connect the men to
COPE and Art Elder's cousin, Lisa Elder, who is also a COPE member.
David B. Runkle, who
operates CIP Printing on East Main Street,
acknowledged filing one of the complaints.
Runkle said he filed the complaint because he believes Elder and O'Neil
pressured the town's planning and zoning department to continually and
repeatedly investigate his business, allegations that both Elder and O'Neil
That pressure, Runkle believes, is because his business competes directly
with Chronicle Press, a printing company owned by Lisa Elder and Chris Price.
Lisa Elder has complained to the town that Runkle is running his business
Commissioner Elder has said that Runkle's ethics complaint is the result of
bitterness because he foreclosed on him for a business transaction that went
bad, and that he had nothing to do with his cousin's complaints about Runkle's
Commissioner Elder used to own Chronicle Press, and Runkle worked with him.
Runkle bought the company and the building that housed it in 1999, but he still
owed money to Elder. Runkle filed for bankruptcy four years later, and the
court told Art Elder to repossess the business to recoup some of his losses,
Elder said. Art Elder then sold the business to his cousin, Lisa Elder.
Lisa Elder said she went to a commissioner for help when she felt nothing
was being done about her complaints. She said she went to O'Neil because he is
the president of the commission, has a track record of getting results, and
because she has known him since they were both witnesses against the annexation
of Silver Fancy Farm two years ago.
The second complaint was filed by e-mail on Nov. 24 to Brennan. The Gazette
received a printed copy of the e-mail, but the name of the sender is blacked
The complaint involves Silo Hill Car Wash, which is owned by Kirby Delauter
and Carl Athey. Attempts to reach Delauter were unsuccessful, and Athey
declined comment until the investigation has been completed.
The town only has one other car wash, owned by Art Elder.
The e-mail sender wrote in part: "There
has been an organized attempt from COPE, which we all know involves O'Neil and
Elder, to stop the [Silo Hill] car wash from being built, and to harass our
"I do believe that, as I stated in the town meeting, they [Elder and O'Neil]
are using their positions on the town board to harass business in the town."
O'Neil said in a statement issued Dec. 27 that he believes Brennan "fully
intends this hearing to smear our good names through hearsay and innuendo for
purely political reasons."
He contends, as does Elder, that the bad feelings between Brennan, O'Neil
and Elder began when Elder defeated Brennan in the 2003 town election. Brennan
was a town commissioner before serving as chair of the Ethics Commission.
has said emphatically that their allegations of political motivation are not
true, and that he is trying to conduct the investigation fairly.
The Ethics Commission has been conducting closed interviews with the
complainants and witnesses. Brennan announced in December that he hoped to have
a report to the town commissioners about how they would proceed this month.
Brennan has said the
town's ethics code does not give the board the ability to require
testimony or issue subpoenas as it merely functions as an advisory body to the