Winer urged to quit panel

Arundel council head says `conflict clear' in county land deal

Executive `very troubled'

May 20, 1999|By Matthew Mosk and Laura Sullivan | Matthew Mosk and Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Developer Jay Winer should resign from an Odenton planning committee for engineering a county land deal that benefited him, Anne Arundel County Council President Daniel E. Klosterman Jr. said yesterday.

"I think the conflict is clear," Klosterman said in an interview outside the council chambers. "I think he should voluntarily resign."

The councilman was responding to reports in The Sun which revealed that Winer, using his public positions, persuaded the county to buy 26 acres of Odenton land as a site for a regional library and community college campus.

The purchase earned Winer's real estate firm an $81,000 broker's commission, and greatly improved Winer's chances to profit from more than $6 million in land nearby that he either owns or markets through his company, A. J. Properties.

Timing of the transaction also clouded matters. The county bought the acreage during the final days of County Executive's John G. Gary's tenure. Winer was a major contributor to Gary's campaign.

The Odenton deal was one of several signed during Gary's closing weeks in office. It has focused scrutiny on the way he spent money from the county's land acquisition fund, one of the few accounts he did not need council approval to use. More than $1 million of the fund found its way into the pockets of his political backers.

Winer has declined repeated requests from The Sun for an interview, but he defended his role in the deal during a brief exchange Wednesday with County Executive Janet S. Owens, who encountered him at a Realtors' luncheon in Arnold.

"I said to him, `My goodness, Jay, I am very troubled by what I'm reading,' " Owens said, recalling their conversation. "He said to me that he was committed to the community, and he did nothing improper."

Owens said she was consulting with the county's attorneys about the deal, and asked Winer to meet with her before she decides whether to join Klosterman's call for him to step down from any of his county-appointed positions.

In addition to chairing the Town Plan Oversight Committee, Winer also heads the Odenton Small Area Planning Committee and sits on the board of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp.

Bill D. Burlison, the council member whose district includes Odenton, said ousting Winer would be a mistake.

"There would be an enormous void in leadership on that committee without Mr. Winer," he said.

Winer spoke Tuesday with The Capital and told the newspaper's editors there was nothing improper about him serving as chairman of the oversight committee, or about advising the county to buy land that he was brokering.

"We knew it might be an issue," he was quoted in the paper's published report yesterday. "We had discussions in the [oversight] committee on it, and I did everything I could to make it clear over several discussions that my company represented this property."

While many in the county and on the committee believe the property was best suited for the facilities whether Winer benefited or not, they don't recall him disclosing his personal interest.

Gary said Winer never told him of the possible conflict. And two members of the oversight committee said in separate interviews yesterday that they don't remember Winer discussing it.

Committee member Norm Meyers said he only knew of Winer's position as a broker and landowner "because I've lived in Odenton for 20 years. But I wasn't going to bring it up because it was the ideal location for the library."

"Maybe in the future," he said, members "ought to make a disclosure of it if they have another interest. Then the committee can decide if they should step out of the discussions."

Committee members also couldn't remember who raised the idea of bringing a library to Odenton in the first place. But library administrator Ron Koslowski said the idea was Winer's.

"Originally I talked with Jay," Koslowski recalled. "He called me and asked me if I was interested in seeing the property."

Pub Date: 5/20/99

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