THOUGH HE WAS given the stamp of propriety by the Howard County Ethics Commission, it is hoped that County Councilman Charles C. Feaga won't repeat the behavior that led to his investigation by that agency. He may not have technically violated the ethics law, but he most certainly failed to meet the spirit in which it was written.
Last December, Mr. Feaga sold an option on 200 acres of his family farm in Ellicott City to a company owned by Columbia developers Hugh F. Cole Jr. and John F. Liparini.
The next month, Mr. Feaga's vote provided the difference in a 3-2 council decision to ignore the recommendation of the county Department of Planning and Zoning and grant a zoning change to a partnership that includes the same two developers. The variance was to allow them to build an elderly care facility in Fulton.
Since the connection between Mr. Feaga and the two developers was revealed in February, the councilman has contended he did nothing wrong because there was no tie between the land deal and the zoning vote. The county ethics panel has agreed with him, issuing an advisory opinion last week that concluded no law was broken since Mr. Feaga never received "direct financial impact" from his vote.
But by participating in that Jan. 2 vote, Mr. Feaga cast doubt on the impartiality of council members in all zoning cases. Regardless of the ethics panel's ruling, the fact is that he voted for something that benefited two people who had already done him a favor by buying his land. To avoid the slightest appearance of a conflict of interest, the councilman should have recused himself from the zoning case vote.
It is disheartening to hear Mr. Feaga still contend he did what was best for the county. He should know that more important than the potential economic impact of a proposed elderly care facility is the integrity Howard countians expect from their council members.
In March, Mr. Feaga recused himself from a vote involving a company that employs his son. So, one must assume he understands the importance of avoiding the appearance of a conflict of interest. But he must be consistent in exhibiting that same caliber of behavior in every matter before the council if he wants to erase the tarnish now sullying his reputation.
Pub Date: 5/07/96