It could not have been easy for Chuck Ecker to publicly sever ties with Mike Davis, who had served as a campaign adviser and co-chaired his transition team. This is, after all, the second time in the nascent Ecker administration that the executive has had to retrench on matters of who should, and should not, be part of the inner circle.
Nonetheless, the Howard County chief did the right thing, perhaps the only thing he could do, in announcing that Davis would have "no other connection with county government."
Ecker's ties with Davis had become controversial in two recent issues: One was the executive's appointment of a close, female friend of Davis as personnel administrator, though her credentials remain in question. The other was the amusement tax increase Ecker proposed in his budget. Davis, it turns out, was a registered lobbyist for Merriweather Post Pavilion, which hired him to try to prod Ecker to find alternatives to the tax hike. Ecker didn't. But he delayed the implementation of the tax from July 1 until Oct. 1, when Merriweather's season is over. previous editorial misstated the terms: The delay would apply countywide -- saving Merriweather's promoter $150,000. To muddy the waters even further, Davis was, until Friday, head of a panel drafting a sure-to-be controversial adequate public facilities ordinance. And Ecker was right in fearing that reports of Davis' lobbying efforts may have prompted the public to discredit the committee's report.
There may have been no wrongdoing or misuse of influence in the Ecker-Davis association, as the executive has insisted all along. But the perceived conflict of interest alone is reason enough to cut ties.