Departing planning official airs grievances

At public meeting, he responds to charges

February 16, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

At his last meeting as a member of Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission, Grant S. Dannelly questioned yesterday the ruling from an ethics panel that has led to his exit from the commission two days before the end of his term.

Dannelly, whose five-year term expires tomorrow, used the commission's regular monthly meeting as a forum for presenting his side of a controversy that has surrounded him for more than six months. He contended he was repeatedly denied opportunities "to present my side on a level playing field" to the county commissioners and the ethics board.

"I could not live with myself, if I didn't share my side of this with the public," Dannelly said after the meeting.

The county Ethics Commission concluded last month that Dannelly had broken ethics rules by failing to disclose his ownership of a property that the county is considering for a road project. By participating in discussions on the project and championing it, Dannelly had a conflict of interest, the panel found.

Dannelly and his wife are one-third owners of a .27-acre parcel at the north end of Marriottsville Road No. 2, south of its intersection with Ridge Road in South Carroll. He called his failure to disclose an oversight.

"I did not give these years of my life to public service to parlay [a small piece of property] into a fortune," said Dannelly. "Despite what my detractors say, I have tried to make a positive difference during my tenure.

"I am just a citizen serving the county and willing to say `no' to uncontrolled growth," he said. "It takes courage to say `no' in the face of developers."

At the meeting, Dannelly reviewed his correspondence with the county commissioners and the ethics panel. He denied allegations that he had refused to meet with the ethics board, saying he had not received information he had requested when the investigation began in September. He says he never received a copy of the letter that led to the investigation.

"How could the ethics commission conduct an investigation without first reading the original letter of allegation?" he said. "This is analogous to performing an autopsy without a body."

Before and after Dannelly's remarks, his commission colleague Maurice Wheatley argued the meeting was not the proper forum to air complaints. "Dannelly went over what he felt, and said he was not given fair treatment," said Wheatley. "This should not be part of the planning commission record. This was a meeting, not a bully pulpit."

The county commissioners asked Dannelly in a letter dated Feb. 8 to "refrain from sitting as a member of the Planning Commission" for the remainder of his term. Before drafting the letter, the commissioners had scheduled a private meeting with him Feb. 10. Their letter "nullified any need to meet with them," Dannelly said.

He refused to resign and sat at the commission table when the meeting opened yesterday. When he was finished, Dannelly asked to be excused, saying he had no other duties to perform before his term expires. "I consider my term 100 percent complete," he said.

Deborah L. Ridgely, planning commission chairwoman, said the commissioner's letter had been ill-timed. "It's unfortunate, considering his term expires, that all this had to happen, that he could not just be allowed to walk into the sunset," Ridgely said.

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