Ex-councilman broke law, Ethics Commission finds Former Arundel official's backing bill to help friend is second offense in a year

December 19, 1998|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer TaNoah Morgan contributed to this report.

For the second time this year, the Anne Arundel County Ethics Commission has found former County Councilman Thomas W. Redmond Sr. in violation of ethics law, this time for championing legislation to help his friend and business associate.

In a six-page opinion released yesterday, the commission said Redmond "used his office as a county councilman during 1997 to sponsor legislation for the gain of himself." It was noted that his friend, William H. DeBaugh Jr., would not have been able to continue operating his Pasadena wood-chipping business, A-A Recycle & Sand, had it not been for Redmond's legislation that changed zoning laws.

The board took particular issue with Redmond's silence at the bill hearing in April 1997, when he failed to mention their ties, including yearly payments of $1,000 to $5,000 to DeBaugh.

Redmond, who owns a waste-hauling business and a towing operation, told The Sun last year that he paid DeBaugh to process scrap wood and concrete that he collects from construction sites.

He also said DeBaugh paid him about $650 a year to empty a trash bin on DeBaugh's property.

"The action of Mr. Redmond, in introducing [the bill is] not thought by us to be usual and customary constituent services," the commission wrote. "Mr. Redmond and Mr. DeBaugh have a historical and ongoing business relationship that was benefited by this legislation."

Redmond and DeBaugh did not return phone calls seeking comment yesterday.

Area residents, who have fought DeBaugh's recycling business for years and rallied against the bill when it was introduced, said they felt vindicated by the commission and want the legislation rescinded.

"We all thought it was suspicious when Redmond introduced that legislation, but we were so new at this we didn't know what we could do about it," said neighbor Kim Warfield. "I feel like justice has been done."

The ethics panel, which acts mainly to inform residents when public officials do not act within the guidelines of the law, has no enforcement powers. But County Councilwoman Pam Biddle, the council vice chairwoman, said the council will look into the situation, and consider changing the law.

"We're certainly not going to ignore it," she said. "The bill was passed in an unethical situation and we need to review it."

DeBaugh had been operating his wood-chipping business without the proper zoning until Redmond proposed his bill. As a result, DeBaugh was given the chance to change his zoning to commercial and to ask for a special exception. The commission found he is the only person who tried to make use of the law.

The county denied his request in September and he has appealed. He has been allowed to continue operating until the county Board of Appeals issues a decision, expected this month.

The commission's action comes 10 months after it found that Redmond violated ethics laws when he pushed for passage of bill changing the county's towing license ordinance.

In similar language to yesterday's opinion, the commission said Redmond should not have spoken during a 1996 council work session on the towing license legislation. It also said he should have revealed before the vote that his license agreement with the county gives him exclusive rights to tow cars for the police department in Pasadena.

Pub Date: 12/19/98

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