Zoning change hard to undo Redmond voted for it, is being investigated

Ethics questioned

Councilman's ties to recycler at issue

October 23, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

A zoning law change passed by the County Council in April 1997 that opened commercially zoned property to wood-waste recycling operations cannot easily be invalidated, no matter how an Ethics Commission investigation into the passage of that law comes out.

The commission is looking into the business connections between Councilman Thomas W. Redmond Sr., who sponsored and voted for the zoning change, and a recycling company that benefited from it.

The commission subpoenaed a Sun reporter Wednesday seeking information on Redmond and his relationship with A-A Recycle & Sand Inc., owned by Redmond's longtime friend and former client William H. DeBaugh Jr.

Redmond has not returned calls to his office, and DeBaugh's office referred all questions to his lawyer, Harry C. Blumenthal, who also did not call back.

Over the objection of more than a dozen Pasadena residents at a public hearing, Redmond voted for the zoning change that allowed DeBaugh to ask for an exception for the wood-waste recycling he has done on his property for years without proper zoning.

The bill passed 4-2, the minimum number of votes needed to pass legislation.

Even if the Ethics Commission finds that Redmond had a conflict of interest on the legislation or that he violated county ethics laws by supporting and voting for it, the commission cannot do much about it.

Under the county public ethics law, the commission may ask for a Circuit Court order to "void an official action taken by an employee involving a conflict of interest prohibited by this article," but the commission must ask within 90 days of the action.

The zoning bill became law more than a year ago.

DeBaugh has applied for a special exception under the new provision and has asked the county for a zoning change for part of his property to bring his operation into compliance.

The county Department of Planning and Code Enforcement has opposed the exception and zoning change before the county hearing officer and the Board of Appeals, which has not decided on the requests.

Regardless of what the Ethics Commission does, the incoming County Council could repeal the zoning change. Such actions, however, are rarely retroactive, said Atwood B. Tate, the council's legislative counsel.

DeBaugh could still win his special exception and zoning change under the law in effect when he applied.

People who live near the wood-waste recycling business asked the Ethics Commission last year to investigate Redmond and his connection to DeBaugh after articles by Sun reporter Tom Pelton exposed the business link between the two.

Pub Date: 10/23/98

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