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Judge dismisses 4 of 5 counts in Elder lawsuit
Remaining count carries no financial penalty

(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,” McDermott said.

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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