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Town to mull ethics ordinance

Emmitsburg officials will work with the Maryland Municipal League on new guidelines for Ethics Commission

Ingrid Mezo

(2/9) Emmitsburg town officials Monday discussed a new ordinance that would spell out the town Ethics Commission’s rules and procedures.

Town officials had previously discussed more clearly defining Ethics Commission procedures during the commission’s investigation of town Commissioners Art Elder and Bill O’Neil last year. An ordinance drafted by town attorney John Clapp on June 10 has been shelved in the town office until now. Clapp’s ordinance is based on recommendations from the ethics commission and its attorney, Harry deMoll.

Commissioner Glenn Blanchard proposed that town officials contact the Maryland Municipal League and work with them in drafting the ordinance.

‘‘It might be more palatable to everyone to adopt something that has been adopted by the Maryland Municipal League," town manager Dave Haller said.

The ethics commission issued a report in April 2005 stating that O’Neil and Elder violated the town’s ethics code. Both commissioners have said that they were denied due process during the investigation and have questioned the authority of the ethics commission.

As a result of the investigation, Elder filed suit in December against Mayor James Hoover, the three members of the ethics commission, and the town’s Board of Commissioners on four separate counts, seeking a total of $5.4 million in damages.

In Frederick County Circuit Court records for that lawsuit, Elder claims he was denied due process rights during the investigation, causing him and his family ‘‘serious and grave harm." Part of the lawsuit asks the court to ‘‘declare that the Emmitsburg Code of Ethics upon which the investigation was based, was a violation of [his] right to due process, in that the code was vague and that there were no procedural guidelines."

Haller said he would have a new draft of the ordinance available for town officials to consider during the March 20 town meeting.

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