A Vote for Honorable Government ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

October 30, 1992

Anne Arundel is the only county in Maryland without an independent ethics commission, and it needs one -- badly. The fact that federal investigators are now looking into the previous county administration's links to an upscale South County development is proof enough of that.

Next Tuesday, voters can help prevent conflicts between public responsibilities and personal financial interests by voting in favor of Question E. This proposed charter amendment would create an independent commission, composed of seven county residents, to oversee the conduct of public officials and lobbyists and to administer the county ethics law.

As it is, the county attorney is responsible for enforcing the ethics law -- a terrible arrangement, because the county attorney serves at the pleasure of the county executive. This puts the attorney in the uncomfortable position of having to investigate his own clients, a conflict of interest in itself.

Consider: The administration of the previous county executive, O. James Lighthizer (now the state's secretary of transportation), is suspected of granting favorable treatment to a developer who wanted to build in an environmentally sensitive region near the South River. A high-ranking member of the administration owned a lot in the project. How could the county attorney, serving under Mr. Lighthizer, have explored possible ethics violations when he was working with and for the very people in question?

An independent ethics panel, on the other hand, would owe allegiance to no one in government. Members could not be candidates for public office or be employed by the public sector. They could not work as lobbyists and would be barred from office or employment with political parties. Members would serve four-year volunteer terms and would be appointed by the executive and approved by the County Council. The commission would keep an eye on public leaders who may be engaging in prohibited activities or using influence improperly. It would have authority to investigate complaints, determine violations and take appropriate action.

Anne Arundel County should have had an ethics panel long ago. With so many citizens cynical about the integrity of public office, we cannot waste this chance to make sure government operates honorably. Vote FOR Question E.

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