Haines wants planner reinstated State senator to send commissioners letter to ask Lennon's return

Delegation's help sought

Ethics panel found violation but didn't recommend expulsion

July 24, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

State Sen. Larry E. Haines will be looking for help from Carroll's General Assembly delegation this morning in asking the Board of County Commissioners to rescind its vote expelling a Westminster attorney from the planning commission.

"I want to send a letter to the commissioners asking them to reinstate Robert H. Lennon," Haines said yesterday.

Lennon "wasn't given due process" and Commissioners W. Benjamin Brown and Richard T. Yates "acted too swiftly and too hastily" when they voted July 15 to oust Lennon from the commission for violating the county ethics law, Haines said.

The pair voted to remove Lennon after an ethics panel said Lennon violated ethics laws by voting on a water and sewer issue affecting a former client and by representing the owners of small lots of agricultural land.

Lennon denied violating any laws but agreed not to represent such clients, as the ethics panel had demanded in its three-page opinion. The panel did not call for his expulsion. Brown and Yates voted him out anyway, over the objection of County Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who appointed Lennon.

Dell has called the ouster of Lennon a "witch hunt."

Del. Joseph M. Getty said Lennon is a victim of "character assassination." He wants the delegation "to make some type of statement in support [of Lennon] that would counter the public impression that he did something major wrong."

That impression has been fueled, Getty said, by statements from Brown and Yates that ethics are so intertwined with good government that any violation is reason for expulsion from office.

Lennon fell victim "to something everybody in public office fears -- a minor ethical concern that raises a broader issue," Getty said. "We'd like to clear the record a little bit."

Specifically, Getty wants the delegation to "reinforce that we don't agree in any way" with the ethics commission finding or the commissioners' expulsion of Lennon. "We want the delegation to say to the public that this is an individual of good character who contributes and is an asset to the community," Getty said.

Yesterday, James H. Dulany IV, president of the Greater Westminster Development Corp., delivered a letter of support for Lennon to newspapers.

Public confidence has been shaken by "recent events including the removal of a valuable [planning] commission member," Dulany's letter says. "Micromanagement of the legally constituted planning body under state law is not acceptable. The county planning commission should not be accountable to the local elected officials who are representing their own political constituencies."

The five Republicans in the county's six-member delegation say Lennon's ouster was politically motivated, even though carried out by fellow Republicans. Relations between the commissioners and the delegation have become increasingly acrimonious. Some delegation members say Brown and Yates are no longer worthy of being called Republicans.

Yates, meanwhile, characterized the GOP legislators as childish "90-day wonders who, when they can't get their way [in a legislature controlled by Democrats], turn their eyes to the county government and want to run it."

Getty thinks the rhetoric will cool down. "In political leadership, you disagree lots of times on different issues and go back to the drawing board to work together on other issues," he said.

What happened in this instance, Getty said, is not a betrayal of GOP principles but a misunderstanding of the law.

Pub Date: 7/24/96

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