Neall seeks probe of ex-official's role in landfill plan

May 26, 1992|By Staff report

County Executive Robert R. Neall has asked the county ethics officer to investigate the role of the county's former chief planner in a rubble landfill proposed near Odenton.

Ethics laws bar former county officers from using their inside knowledge to advise developers on projects opposed by the county.

Owen White, who was replaced as head of the Office of Planning and Zoning last fall, has been advising Warren E. Halle, a Silver Spring-based developer, whose request to operate a rubble landfill near routes 3 and 424 was turned down. Halle has appealed the county's decision.

Neall asked the ethics officer, County Attorney Judson P. Garrett, to review White's role after an inquiry by an Annapolis Capital reporter, said Neall press secretary Louise Hayman.

However, Hayman said no formal complaint has been filed with the ethics officer. And the law is unclear if a "full-scale" investigation would be legal without a citizen complaint.

The law also is unclear if it prohibits all levels of advice, Hayman said.

"There are enough questions there that the county attorney should investigate it," said Deborah Povich, assistant director for Common Cause of Maryland, a public policy watchdog group.

But the county's ethics law needs clarification and revision, Povich said. Common Cause recommended nearly a year ago that the county establish an independent ethics commission that could conduct its own investigations. Anne Arundel is the only county in Maryland without such a panel.

Hayman said a charter amendment establishing an ethics commission is being drafted and could be placed on the ballot next November.

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