Learning from the Lennon affair Carroll County: Commissioners shouldn't fight reinstatement of planning board member.

December 23, 1996

LET'S HOPE for the New Year that the Carroll County commissioners get some more common sense and that Robert Lennon gets a higher standard of personal ethics. Let the Planning and Zoning Commission, albeit divided, get on with its duties and the commissioners, also divided, get on with theirs.

A Circuit Court judge has ruled that Mr. Lennon did not act illegally as a planning commission member and that he should remain on the panel for his appointed term, overturning a county Ethics Commission finding. The ethics group ruled that the lawyer violated law in having clients with issues before that zoning body and voting on matters benefiting his client, which led the commissioners to impeach him. The validity of the county ethics body, as opposed to this particular opinion, was not at issue. The propriety, as opposed to legality, of Mr. Lennon's actions was not at issue.

So the saber-rattling bravado of commissioners about appealing the decision in order to preserve the integrity of "our commission" is entirely out of place. It is misguided, politically motivated and a waste of taxpayer money.

Their effort to oust Mr. Lennon was not about the ethics of one vote, but about his unabashed pro-growth positions on the planning body. His apparent conflicts of interest, of varying degrees, have been exposed and he will tread more carefully and scrupulously in future commission dealings. Mr. Lennon is, in any case, a minority among the commission's growth-restraint majority.

If the planning commission is to do its job effectively, the political meddling by the Board of Commissioners must cease.

The Lennon case has dragged on for a year, marked by some dubious official procedures. Carroll County has spent $35,000 on the case, including $29,000 to outside counsel. It would have to dip into unspecified financial reserves to pay for an appeal. This is the same bunch of commissioners that rejected a $350,000 park for Westminster this year because the county would have to spend $20,000 of its own money to secure the state and federal grants.

There is no sense in political zealotry. Amend the county ethics code, if necessary. But let the Lennon case stand as decided, hoping that all have learned something from the episode.

Pub Date: 12/23/96

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