Panel studies possible conflict of interest Commission seeks new information

November 20, 1992|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

The Carroll County Ethics Commission has requested information from three parties involved in a potential conflict-of-interest case, in which the county accepted $500 from the local homebuilders' group to help pay the expenses of a county inspector attending an out-of-state convention.

The commission met in a closed session at the County Office Building yesterday but is not ready to decide on the issue, commission Chairman Thomas W. Lewis of Westminster said after the meeting.

The Ethics Commission is allowed to meet in private because it is a quasi-judicial agency, Assistant Attorney General Jack Schwartz said. Quasi-judicial agencies that issue administrative orders or judgments are exempt from the state's open-meeting law, he said.

The Ethics Commission sent letters to three people involved in the matter after deciding last month to investigate, Mr. Lewis said.

In August, the Carroll commissioners voted to accept $500 from the Carroll County chapter of the Home Builders Association of Maryland to help pay for Ralph E. Green, chief of the Bureau of Permits and Inspections, to attend a national convention in St. Paul, Minn., in September.

The commissioners later said they saw no conflict of interest in the arrangement.

County records show the trip cost $1,352. The county paid $852.

Mr. Green, the only Carroll representative at the convention, voted on proposed changes to the national building code. He voted against making residential stairs lower and wider than now required.

The Home Builders Association opposed the change because it would increase construction costs and require the redesign of house plans. The proposal was defeated.

The ethics commission wrote to Mr. Green; Robert A. "Max" Bair, the commissioners' executive assistant; and Manchester developer Martin K. P. Hill, Mr. Lewis said.

Mr. Hill said at a Carroll home builders' meeting Oct. 15 that the group's money had been well spent. He is a member of the home builders' board of directors and a past president.

Yesterday, Mr. Green and Mr. Bair said they had responded to the Ethics Commission's request in writing. They would not comment about their responses.

Mr. Hill said he received a copy of a letter addressed to the Home Builders Association of Maryland office in Baltimore and that it did not ask him specifically for a reply.

An association spokeswoman said late yesterday afternoon that she had not seen the letter.

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