Ethics Bill for Howard? HOWARD COUNTY

January 12, 1993

Don't look for anything earth-shattering in the package of legislation being generated by the Howard County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly this year. For the session in Annapolis that opens tomorrow, county delegates have but two items of local significance up for their colleagues' consideration.

First is an ethics bill sponsored by Del. Martin G. Madden. It would require developers seeking a zoning change from the county to disclose any campaign contributions of $500 or more they made to a County Council member. The reason is that the County Council members also sit as the zoning board.

Although Delegate Madden's bill would not disqualify a council member from voting on a re-zoning matter because of a campaign contribution, it would put the public on notice of potential conflicts of interests. If nothing else, it may limit such contributions or embarrass a council member enough so that the official might voluntarily abstain from certain decisions.

At a time when growth issues are fraying tempers and calling into question elected officials' motivations, this measure may add some integrity to the process.

Yet it seems to us that the proposal doesn't go far enough. Because re-zoning matters can also be influenced by the county administration, disclosure of contributions made to the county executive should be required as well.

There is still time to alter this worthwhile legislation so that all pertinent elected officials in the county are covered by it.

The other significant measure being considered by the county delegation would establish an economic development authority in Howard County.

Such a quasi-governmental group is something that County Executive Charles I. Ecker is seeking to fine-tune the county's efforts to attract and retain business here.

We agree with Mr. Ecker. The county delegation, however, is still wrestling with some details in the bill.

At issue is the make-up of the board of directors that will guide the authority. While that is an important element to work out, we hope that deliberations won't jeopardize approval for this measure during the coming session.

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