Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins did not violate the city code whenhe authorized a city ambulance to take the governor's longtime companion, Hilda Mae Snoops, to Baltimore on a non-emergency run, a city panel found last night.
The five-member Ethics Commission announcedits conclusion after a 30-minute meeting behind closed doors at CityHall.
The commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council, investigated the July 24 trip at the request of Irma Sponsler, a member of the city's Democratic Central Committee.
Sponsler, former Mayor Dennis M. Callahan's secretary, charged in a complaint last month that Hopkins' move violated a section of the city code forbidding an elected official to "use the prestige of his office for his own private gain or the gain of another person."
But Frederick M. Paone, the commission's chairman, said after the meeting, "There was no indication whatsoever of any personal gain on the part of anybody involved."
A 71-year-old Annapolis man, Thomas C. Sharps, died of cardiac arrest while the city ambulance was returning from taking Snoops to Good Samaritan Hospital after a fall at theGovernor's Mansion.
With the city's only other ambulance out on another call, a county ambulance, stationed in Riva, responded to the 10:21 p.m. 911 call from the Sharps family.
The county ambulance arrived in about eight minutes. Fire officials have said time was not a factor in Sharps' death.
Told that Mrs. Snoops' regular doctor did not have privileges at the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Capt. Larry Tolliver, of the governor's security detail, requestedan ambulance to take her to Baltimore.
When the battalion chief on duty denied the request because of a policy forbidding non-emergency transports outside the city, Tolliver called Hopkins, who approved the trip.
Unless it is an emergency and a patient can be treated only at a different hospital, city policy requires patients to be taken to the nearest hospital. In Snoops' case, that would have been AnneArundel Medical Center, about two blocks from the Governor's Mansion.
Last week, the City Council's Public Safety Committee concluded that Hopkins made an honest mistake when he ordered the ambulance to take Snoops to Baltimore.
The committee recommended that elected officials should not make decisions involving police, fire or ambulance service without first consulting respective department heads.