Anne Arundel's man of many conflicts Thomas Redmond: Councilman should have disclosed business deal before vote.

September 24, 1997

THOMAS W. REDMOND SR. could have saved himself a great deal of embarrassment had he revealed his business relationship with William H. DeBaugh Jr.

Instead, the Anne Arundel County councilman decided not to say anything. Along with his other problems -- personal bankruptcy, his former wife's allegations that he threatened her, a possible contempt citation for failing to heed a judge's order -- Mr. Redmond's integrity is once again in question.

Part-time elected officials who own local businesses will invariably run into occasions when they must vote on matters that may affect their financial relationships. Disclosing any potential conflict of interest, no matter how tenuous, is the best method for putting ethical questions to rest.

Had the Pasadena councilman disclosed that his trucking business earns thousands of dollars annually by hauling wood and construction debris to Mr. DeBaugh's recycling company, and by picking up trash there, Mr. Redmond would have one less ethical cloud hanging over his head today. Because Mr. Redmond introduced a measure and cast the deciding vote for an ordinance that permits ''wood waste recycling'' on commercial property -- essentially preserving Mr. DeBaugh's non-conforming business -- it appears Mr. Redmond was helping himself as well as his friend and customer.

No one expects Mr. Redmond, or anyone in public life, to close up a business he or she had spent years building for the sake of a part-time position on the council. But the public has a right to expect its representatives, when faced with potential conflicts of interest, to do all they can to alleviate suspicions that they are using their offices for private gain.

Mr. Redmond should have disclosed his relationship with Mr. DeBaugh before the wood-waste recycling vote. Then he could have recused himself from sponsoring or voting on the legislation -- the prudent course of action. Or he could have legislated, as he did, and suffered the political consequences.

By failing to disclose, Mr. Redmond has exhibited the kind of behavior that feeds public cynicism and ultimately degrades the quality of democracy. Since it is too late to reconsider the bill, Mr. Redmond should think about apologizing for his unacceptable behavior.

Pub Date: 9/24/97

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