County executive seeks tips on suspected fraud

Independent auditor set to investigate allegations from Arundel employees

January 22, 1999|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens is asking county employees to report suspected fraud and corruption within her administration to a 24-hour hot line so investigators can keep county government clean.

The County Council set up the toll-free telephone line two years ago. But then County Executive John G. Gary refused to send notices about the service to employees because he wanted his administration to control investigations.

Under the council plan, the county's auditor, with whom Gary often fought, will investigate the complaints.

The newly elected county executive announced yesterday she will mail letters about the "Ethics Line" to employees with their paychecks.

The action is the most recent by Owens -- who campaigned on a platform of honesty and integrity -- to avoid ethical problems.

On Jan. 15, she dismissed an unpaid adviser who was being paid by racetrack developers but had not registered as a lobbyist. On Dec. 23, she demanded to review all subdivision applications after learning that a county planner was recommending waivers of growth-control laws for his father-in-law's company.

"Eliminating fraud, waste and abuse within our government is essential to sound management," Owens wrote in the letter to county employees. "Fraud, waste and abuse cost the county time and money, increase stress and lower morale."

The ethics hot line costs about $3,100 a year and is run by the county auditor's office, which is controlled by the County Council.

Members of the council have sought to send a mass mailing to county employees for two years but were frustrated by the Gary administration.

Daniel E. Klosterman Jr., the newly elected chairman of the council who co-signed the letter being sent to employees, said yesterday that he is happy to have workers report problems in the Arundel Center.

"This is a great way for us to let every employee know that their hard work will not be wasted," Klosterman said. "The council thinks the taxpayers will be well-served by the hot line, too."

The hot-line number is 800-500-0333. Callers are guaranteed anonymity, and calls will not be traced or recorded, according to the letter.

All tips will be reported to a committee made up of the county auditor, an attorney from the county's law office and an employee of the county's office of budget and finance.

Pub Date: 1/22/99

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