An ad hoc
committee of department general managers and other county
officials, which she chairs, has been meeting quietly to develop
consensus legislation which would complete the overhaul of the
commission following the en masse resignation of all its
members in July, 2002.
debating last winter whether to reconstitute the commission or
turn the job of overseeing ethics matters in county government
to the state Public Integrity Commission, County Council members
were quick to agree that the commission needed something of a
agency balked at taking on the additional responsibility and
Council and County Executive Thomas Gordon appointed new members
to fill out the commission. While the commission was going
through the process of organizing and setting up shop this
spring and summer, the ad hoc committee focused on determining
what changes needed to be made in the law.
legislation was presented to the committee at a meeting on Sept.
9 While Venezky emphasized that it is still a proverbial
work-in-process and not a final version of what she and Council
president Christopher Coons will present, she did draw
acknowledgement from everyone around the table that they have no
reservations about what appear to be the key provisions.
more specifically spell out who will be required to submit
annual statements of their financial interests beyond income
from their county jobs.
of the code's present vague reference to employees "who perform
work that is administrative in nature," the proposed revision
specifies the chief administrative officer, county attorney,
deputy attorney and assistant county attorneys, Council's
attorney, county auditor and Council's policy director. Elected
officials, which includes the county executive, Council members
and the so-called 'row officers', were already included.
Lower-ranking employees, such as code enforcement officers,
land-use planners and purchasing agents, would continue to be
legislation does not change what is required to be reported.
Principal items are outside businesses, significant debts, real
estate holdings, large gifts and financial relationships with
any firm doing business with the county.
key provision establishes a responsibility for the ethics
commission to provide education and training to county employees
concerning their handling of county business. It was agreed at
the meeting that, because the commission is a volunteer panel
and its staff consists of only two people working part time, the
actual training can be done by designated persons in the
county's human resources department in collaboration with the
commission without impeding the commission's authority,
integrity or independence.
announced at the committee meeting that the commission has set
up an office in the county Government Center and has hired Rose
Killian as its part-time lawyer.
Coons and commission chairman Dennis Glower expressed
satisfaction over the degree of cooperation between the county
administration and the commission during its reorganization
said the underlying intent of the proposed ordinance,
particularly in its defining an educational function, is to
avoid having the commission assume an adversarial posture in its
relationship with both county officials and employees.
legislation specifies a requirement for confidentiality
concerning matters brought before the commission by county
employees. Commissioners would be required to sign a
confidentiality agreement which would remain in force after
their terms expire or they otherwise leave the commission. The
only penalties provided for violating the agreement, however,
are removal from the commission, "censure by County Council" or
commission staff will be required to conduct regular office
hours, keep a reference file of all opinions it issues, confer
on a regular basis with general managers and the chief
administrative officer, and conduct a "customer satisfaction
also a so-called 'sunset' provision in the proposed ordinance
which would require the county executive and County Council to
review both the code of conduct and the effective of the
commission in 2008 or five years after passage of the new