All in the family Conflict in Anne Arundel: Councilman gives big raise to his wife, who is his aide.

November 05, 1997

CONSIDERING THE outrageous behavior of some elected officials, it's little wonder the voters often think the worst of them. When Anne Arundel County Councilman George F. Bachman Jr. voted in favor of a personnel bill that included a 6.8 percent pay raise for his wife, who works as his council assistant, he only confirmed their cynicism. Mr. Bachman's wrongful actions didn't begin with this vote:

He was wrong to hire his wife as a legislative aide.

He was wrong to make her the highest compensated aide on the council.

He was wrong to have voted on legislation that made possible her latest raise.

All of these actions telegraph one message loud and clear: Mr. Bachman used his elected position to benefit himself and his family.

The county council, unfortunately, does not prohibit council officials from hiring relatives. Past council members have done so. It wasn't right then. It isn't right now. Winning elective office does not entitle that person to become employer of last resort for his or her family.

An officeholder should also know that it is completely nonsensical to give a family member a raise that will be twice as large as other county employees receive. Anna Bachman will be earning $50,689 a year, about double what her husband earns as a part-time councilman.

John Kurpjuweit, head of the county teachers union, whose members are due for a mere 1 percent raise this year, cleverly turned Mr. Bachman's action to his advantage: "I think that our members would hope that what he has done for his own family, the county will do for teachers and other county employees."

This episode should prod the administration or a council member to propose anti-nepotism legislation. There is no getting around the fact that Mr. Bachman's official actions transferred public funds to his household account.

Elected officials are quick to blame the media for their low public esteem and wonder why citizens clamor for tighter ethical restrictions.

Alas, the most unethical members of a legislature define its reputation. Even though no other council member employs relatives on his or her payroll, everyone is smeared. Mr. Bachman's thoughtless action should prod the council to pass anti-nepotism rules.

Pub Date: 11/05/97

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