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Emmitsburg Dispatch

Town board votes to take no further action on ethics complaint, State's attorney could send complaint to state prosecutor

Chris Patterson
Emmitsburg Dispatch

(5/18) The Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 at the May 16 meeting to take no further action against two commissioners found to have violated ethics regulations, according to a recent investigation by the town's Ethics Commission.

Commissioners William B. O'Neil and Arthur Elder, the subjects of the investigation, abstained from the vote. O'Neil refused to comment on the matter until it has been resolved and Elder could not be reached by press time.

In the investigation report issued in April, both commissioners were found to have violated the Town Code by misusing the prestige of their positions.

Subsequently the town's Ethics Commission issued cease and desist orders that instructed O'Neil to refrain from "ordering or directing town employees." O'Neil and Elder were further ordered not to participate in issues relating to the businesses of the two ethics complainants, Silo Hill Car Wash and Custom Image Printing.

Following the commissioners' vote, Mayor James Hoover said, "It is time to close this issue. It's in the best interest of this town to build a working relationship among the board."

He told The Dispatch that the town would send a letter this week to Frederick County State's Attorney Scott Rolle stating the board of commissioners' decision not to pursue further action.

However, the matter is not over for O'Neil and Elder because it is now in the county's hands and could be referred to the state for action.

Rolle has received a request for a review of the complaint from the Emmitsburg Ethics Commission, an attorney involved in the case, and one of the complainants, he said in a phone interview this week

Rolle would not name the attorney or the complainant. However, David Runkle, whose wife owns Custom Image Printing, confirmed that he was the complainant who asked Rolle to consider the case for further action.

Following the vote by the town's board, any further action against the commissioners would have to be initiated by Rolle's office. The town code provides for a maximum penalty to be levied of $500 or up to 30 days in jail for the violations.

Rolle, who just returned from trying a murder case in Puerto Rico, said Wednesday that it will be a week to 10 days before he will make a determination about what action he will take regarding the matter.

"I don't want to delay this. I know it's important stuff," Rolle said. "... I want to come to the right conclusion."

Rolle's office will either conduct a comprehensive review of the complaint for further prosecution or forward the complaint to the Office of the State Prosecutor, or drop the matter, he said. He will, however, take the next week or so to review the documents he has received and perhaps conduct a limited number of interviews to determine what should be done, he noted.

Rolle said that a move to send the matter to the State Prosecutor's Office would not mean Rolle had determined that further action was necessary. Sending the case to the state would only serve to give the matter a fresh, objective view and is often done in these kinds of situations, he said.

In 2002, the State Prosecutor's Office was called upon to investigate a complaint by Thurmont police officers who alleged that the Police Department's command staff had illegally video and audio taped them in 2001. The State Prosecutor's Office ultimately recommended no prosecution of anyone involved.

News Editor Richard D.L. Fulton contributed to this article.

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