(9/20) What had once been a multi-million-dollar lawsuit
against the Town of Emmitsburg by a former town commissioner has been reduced
to one charge that the town had inadequate procedures in its ethics ordinance,
which carries no financial penalty.
Frederick County Circuit Court Judge Julie Stevenson Solt heard
arguments to dismiss the various counts of a lawsuit against the town filed by
former Emmitsburg Town Commission Arthur Elder on Aug. 15. In an order written
Aug. 31, she dismissed four of the five counts.
“The one [count] about the town having adequate procedures in
place for the ethics board and commissioners carries zilch for a penalty,” said
Mayor James Hoover.
However, Elder’s attorney Rosemary McDermott sees it as a step
toward clearing Elder’s name.
“If the town of Emmitsburg had followed the state-mandated
ethics rules, Art Elder would never have had an investigation against him,”
Elder filed suit in the circuit court against members of the
town government on Nov. 23, 2005, seeking $5.4 million in damages he claimed
resulted from the town’s ethics investigation against him. The investigation
determined that Elder had violated the town ethics code.
A U.S. district court judge reviewing the constitutional issues
alleged in the suit in April 2006 rejected Elder’s due-process-related claims,
and dismissed a claim that the town should pay Elder’s legal fees. However, the
remaining charges were remanded back to Frederick County Circuit Court.
Solt’s ruling dismisses the charges of bias, defamation,
negligence and emotional distress against the town, mayor and commissioners.
With regards to the count that the town did not have proper
procedures in place for an ethics investigation, Solt wrote in her opinion,
“…there exists a genuine issue of material fact with regard to whether the
Emmitsburg Code of Ethics and the State Code of Ethics are similar, and the
Town of Emmitsburg in its official capacity is not entitled to judgment as a
matter of law or dismissal for failure to state a claim.”
The court date for the remaining count has not been set yet,
but it will be only attorney arguments without witnesses, according to Hoover.
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