County Council tables financial disclosure bill until fall

July 08, 1992|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

A bill that would require financial disclosure by nominees to four county boards and commissions has been put off until fall.

Council Chairman Paul Farragut, a Columbia Democrat,

proposed tabling the bill at the County Council meeting Monday so the council could get more information on the issue. The council voted, 5-0, to table the bill.

"I didn't hear from as many people as I thought I might," Mr. Farragut said yesterday.

The council did hear from people who thought requiring potential appointees to fill out a nine-page disclosure statement was targeted at the Human Rights Commission.

Its chairman, Roger W. Jones, has suggested that the bill was designed to weaken the commission. Members of other boards argued that the disclosure form would discourage people from volunteering to serve on the boards.

The form requires nominees to identify their own assets and those held by spouses and dependent children, but does not require dollar amounts. It also includes the address of property, names of companies invested in and the names of employers.

Mr. Farragut said one suggestion he has heard that might make the bill more acceptable is a conflict-of-interest question next to a check-off box. Nominees who have no financial conflict of interest could check the box and avoid having to fill out the rest of the form.

"It's worth looking at," he said. The lengthy disclosure form "may be a deterrent to serving on some of these boards," he added.

Ethics Commissioner Suzanne Whitmore said she was relieved the bill had been tabled, and not simply defeated, as she had expected. She said she, too, wanted to get more information on the check-off idea.

"If the [Ethics] Commission did not have the authority to delve into that, then I'm not in favor of that," Ms. Whitmore said. If the commission could investigate complaints against those who had checked the box, she said, "I think it's a step in the right direction."

The council on Monday also appointed a fifth member to the county Board of Appeals, despite one council member's objection that her part of the county would not be represented on the board.

The board appointed George L. Layman, an Ellicott City community activist, by a 4-1 vote.

Shane Pendergrass, a Democrat whose district includes Savage and North Laurel, said Mr. Layman was "as fine a person as you can meet," and worked on her campaign and showed her house.

But she said the southern part of the county had not had a representative on the board since 1987. In April, she submitted the name of William Waff, president of the Savage Community Association.

"Because I believe that on a land use board, I believe we must have geographic balance, I must vote 'no,' " Ms. Pendergrass said.

The board meets twice weekly to weigh special exceptions to land use and variances in the way properties are developed.

The council split, 3-2, in favor of another appointment, David Gedance to the Mental Health Advisory Board.

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