Two Hammonds in a Pod?

September 20, 1994

The biggest issue in Louise Hammond's campaign for Ward 1 alderman in Annapolis last spring was her husband, John. She knew as well as anyone that some people thought she'd be little more than a surrogate for Mr. Hammond, who left the Annapolis City Council after 16 years to take a job as finance officer for Anne Arundel County. She assured voters that, while she and her husband agree on many things, "I'm my own person. I can think and act for myself."

But in the months since Mrs. Hammond took office she has been less than careful about avoiding both conflicts of interest with her husband as a county official and the appearance of influence by him.

Mr. Hammond rarely misses a council meeting, which in itself is no problem; as an Annapolis resident, he has as much right as anybody to attend. But those who regularly go to meetings say the Hammonds convey a sense that they're colluding on city business, occasionally conferring in the lobby and exchanging knowing looks and hand signals. Maybe they're discussing nothing more than what to thaw for dinner the next day, but their communications create the perception of influence by Mr. Hammond. A meeting Mrs. Hammond held at her house during budget negotiations last June sent the same message; Whether or not Mr. Hammond was there -- those who attended say he wasn't -- Mrs. Hammond still should have avoided any appearance of involvement by him by letting someone else serve as host.

Most troubling is that Mrs. Hammond has not steered clear of conflicts of interest with her husband in his role as county finance officer. The night the budget was adopted, she sponsored a amendment removing $30,000 for a review of the fiscal relationship between city and county -- an audit that directly involves Mr. Hammond's work. The amendment, which failed, appeared to be Mrs. Hammond's way of protecting her husband from scrutiny.

We have no problem with husbands and wives serving different governments; there are no shortage of couples in Anne Arundel County who do so. But they must recuse themselves from acting on matters involving the other spouse and behave in a way that reassures the public they're using their own brains to do their own jobs.

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