Not for sale

Anne Arundel: Ms. Owens doesn't want people close to her capitalizing on their connections.

January 19, 1999

COUNTY Executive Janet S. Owens drew a very clear line in the sand when she dismissed her campaign adviser and long-time political supporter Michael F. Gilligan from her transition team. She made the right move to break an overlong county tradition of ignoring ethical considerations.

Mr. Gilligan was not only a friend but a close adviser to Ms. Owens in her successful uphill campaign for county executive. His sister-in-law, Linda Gilligan, is Ms. Owens' chief of staff. As co-chairman of her transition team, he would have had easy access to the highest reaches of the new administration.

Anyone interested in getting the new county executive's ear would have been well advised to hire Mr. Gilligan. That's exactly what Chesapeake Motorsports Development Corp. did. The developer seeking to build a 60,000-seat auto racetrack in Pasadena hired Mr. Gilligan as a lobbyist because of his ties with Ms. Owens.

Mr. Gilligan, a former county attorney and councilman, had every right to represent Chesapeake Motorsports. By accepting the company as a client, however, Mr. Gilligan took on a number of obligations that he did not fulfill. He did not immediately file papers notifying the county's Ethics Commission that he would be lobbying for Chesapeake Motorsports. Even worse, he failed to disclose his relationship with the racetrack company to Ms. Owens.

Ms. Owens needs to know whether the advice she is given will be to the county's benefit. Ms. Owens has to make difficult decisions about the racetrack's future. Advisers giving self-serving advice will not help her make the right decisions.

Ms. Owens' desire to run an administration above reproach is a welcome development in Anne Arundel politics. Too often, elected officials have looked away when their supporters used their connections for private gain.

Pub Date: 1/19/99

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