An Annapolis commission has found Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins guilty of a minor ethical slip-up in paying off a bet with five residential parking stickers.
In a one-page opinion released yesterday, the city's Ethics Commission concluded the mayor violated a section of the city code, but dismissed the infraction as "so minor as to merit no further action."
The mayor ruffled feathers in the city's historic district by distributing the permits to settle a lost wager with a group of midshipmen at the Naval Academy. When the action came to light earlier this month, Hopkins apologized and quickly recalled the parking permits.
But some residents, frustrated by trying to find a spot on the traffic-clogged streets, called for a wider investigation. The city's Republican Central Committee also requested an ethics review.
Heidi Berry, chairwoman of the central committee, decried the findings as a "slap on the wrist."
"I am extremely disappointed by the findings,"she said. "I'm very disappointed that there's been no restitution made to the residents of Ward 1, but I'm not surprised. I'm not surprised."
Berry also questioned why she was not notified of the commission's meeting, which was held Tuesday night instead of March 3, as she says she was originally told it would be.
"It makes me think they're hiding something," she said.
Frederick M. Paone, an assistantstate's attorney who chairs the five-member commission, said the meeting was routine.
A city statute requires that all ethics complaints be kept confidential, and the commission meets as soon as possiblewhen one is filed, he said.
"We never had a meeting set for March3," he said. "We frequently meet on the first Tuesday of the month, but that's not etched in stone."
While acknowledging Hopkins "wentbeyond the authority of his office and misappropriated residential parking permits," the group concluded the "only private gain to the mayor was the satisfaction of a lost wager" and the camaraderie of the midshipmen.
Hopkins responded: "I accept the decision."
Membersof the ethics commission are appointed by the mayor. The group meetsonly to discuss ethics complaints, which are usually kept confidential.
The City Council's Finance Committee still plans to review possible loopholes in the residential parking program and to make recommendations to ease the downtown parking shortage.