Ethics board studying Redmond Pasadena councilman investigated for ties to firm affected by vote

October 22, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County Ethics Commission is investigating Pasadena Councilman Thomas W. Redmond Sr. and his connection to a wood-waste recycling business that could benefit from legislation Redmond championed last year.

The commission is looking for information on Redmond and his business relationship with A. A. Recycle & Sand Inc., according to a subpoena delivered yesterday to Sun reporter Tom Pelton.

The one-term Republican will be out of office in December. He was trounced in his primary bid for re-election in September by A. Shirley Murphy. She faces Democrat Carl G. Holland, who represented District 3 before Redmond did.

Redmond sponsored and voted for legislation in April 1997 that changed zoning law to allow wood-waste recycling in property zoned for commercial use. William H. DeBaugh Jr., owner of A. A. Recycle & Sand, had been operating a wood-chipping business on his property at 8217 Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd., part of which is zoned commercial, without proper zoning approval.

After more than a dozen Pasadena residents spoke against the bill at a public hearing April 7, 1997, the council passed, 4-2, legislation to allow wood-waste recycling as a special exception on property zoned C4, or commercial.

Six months later, Selby Grove residents who live near the recycling operation asked the commission to investigate Redmond after articles by Pelton exposed Redmond's business connection with DeBaugh. Redmond, who owns a waste hauling business and a towing operation, said last year that he paid DeBaugh about $5,000 a year to process scrap wood and concrete that Redmond collects from construction sites. Redmond also said DeBaugh paid him about $650 a year to empty a trash bin on DeBaugh's property.

Despite questions from residents at the hearing, Redmond did not reveal the business connection then.

"That's why we got rid of him," Selby Grove resident Helen Warfield said upon learning of the ethics commission request yesterday. "I'm glad they are doing an investigation. They should have done this a long time ago."

That a conflict of interest existed should have been obvious to Redmond, Murphy said. "The ethics commission spells that right out. He was his own worst enemy."

Warfield said residents want the legislation repealed if the ethics commission finds against Redmond.

Warfield said she was so angered by Redmond's actions on the wood-waste bill that she made 200 phone calls, posted signs and passed out literature to help Murphy defeat Redmond in the primary.

Redmond did not return phone calls to his home and office yesterday.

DeBaugh did not return phone calls to his office, nor did his lawyer, Harry C. Blumenthal.

Since the council passed the wood-waste bill, DeBaugh has applied for a special exception and for rezoning of his part of property from residential and open space to commercial, while continuing to recycle wood waste and store the material in piles on his property.

County planning and code enforcement officials have not cracked down on the violations while DeBaugh's case wound through the county hearing office and, most recently, to the Board of Appeals.

"Our main goal is to bring people into compliance," said John Morris, planning and code enforcement spokesman. "He's viewed as trying to bring his property into compliance."

Selby Grove residents have continued to fight, opposing DeBaugh's special exception and request for the zoning change before the county hearing officer, who turned down the request, and before the Board of Appeals, which heard the case Sept. 29 to Oct. 1.

In the April 1997 council vote, council members Bert L. Rice, William C. Mulford II and John J. Klocko III, all Republicans, joined Redmond in approving the bill. Then Chairwoman Diane R. Evans and Councilman George F. Bachman voted against the bill.

Democratic Councilman James DeGrange, heeding an ethics commission recommendation, abstained from the vote because he was rebuilding a house for resale in a neighborhood near the recycling business.

The commission, in a written opinion March 26, 1997, said it would be a conflict of interest for him to vote or to influence the vote because he had an interest in property values in the area that could be affected by the wood-waste operation.

"The Ethics Law is designed to prevent even an appearance of impropriety in the conduct of county officials and employee," the opinion said.

In an unrelated opinion issued in February, the ethics commission found Redmond to be in violation of county ethics laws when he participated in a discussion on a bill that would affect towing licenses.

Redmond holds a towing license that allows him to be paid for towing cars for the Police Department.

Pub Date: 10/22/98

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