Anne Arundel's Dennis Rodman Ethics: Councilman Redmond is county's poster child for political misbehavior.

March 18, 1998

REGARDING ETHICS, Thomas W. Redmond Sr. seems to have problems doing the right thing. The Anne Arundel County Ethics Commission ruled last week that the county councilman correctly abstained from voting on a measure affecting his towing business, but improperly participated in work sessions that produced the bill.

Mr. Redmond earned more than $32,000 in county fees through an exclusive contract towing cars for the Police Department in parts of Pasadena.

In assessing Mr. Redmond's role in the legislation, which affected the bonding of towing companies, "his actions constituted an attempt to influence legislation in which he had a direct interest," the commission concluded.

Mr. Redmond, incredulously, cannot see that he did anything wrong. Although other council members solicited his opinion on the measure and he readily offered it, Mr. Redmond minimized his participation, calling it "petty."

Mr. Redmond has become the Dennis Rodman of Anne Arundel government: a frequent, almost imaginative, source of embarrassment. A judge last year threatened to jail him for contempt for noncompliance with a divorce decree. He was delinquent paying taxes. And he allegedly backed a zoning change for the sake of a business associate.

The councilman's insensitivity on actual and potential conflicts of interest is outrageous. Part-time elected officials who operate businesses will invariably run into occasions where they must vote on matters that may affect their financial self-interest.

Acknowledging any conflict, no matter how tenuous, is the best way to put ethical questions to rest. Asking the ethics commission for a ruling is another prudent method for officials to ensure they adhere to ethical standards. Mr. Redmond failed to do either.

Citizens have the right to expect that their representatives, faced with potential conflicts, will do all they can to alleviate suspicion that they are using their offices for private gain. It's a theme that rings these days from Washington to Annapolis and beyond.

Mr. Redmond's actions fuel hostility toward government. It is too late to reconsider the legislation in question, but not too late for Mr. Redmond to apologize for his behavior.

Pub Date: 3/18/98

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