Dixon appeals ethics panel ruling finding conflict between her 2 jobs

May 11, 2000|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

City Council President Sheila Dixon is appealing a State Ethics Commission ruling that says it is a conflict of interest for her to serve on the council while working for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

Dixon sought a ruling on the matter last year after being elected council president.

"I think they really couldn't understand or couldn't believe the fact that I've been able to keep my two lives separate, based on what I do in the international arena," Dixon said. "There was one question that they raised, a hypothetical question. Their ruling is based on perception, nothing factual."

During a 10-minute interview with the Ethics Commission, Dixon said she was asked to describe her job and whether she would reveal information about Baltimore's chances of recruiting companies.

"I told them no," Dixon said. "I made it very clear that I'm not involved in that aspect at all."

Dixon said the April 12 ruling surprised her, particularly because of the short interview.

She said her supervisor, Jim Hughes, and Richard C. Mike Lewin, secretary of business and economic development, subsequently sent a letter to the five-member Ethics Commission saying they saw no conflict between her job and her council duties.

The Ethics Commission ruled that Dixon's state office has "significant interactions" with the city, which might suggest a conflict.

"I'm not hearing any complaints," Dixon said. "I've been very receptive with my constituents."

John O'Donnell, executive director of the State Ethics Commission, said he could not discuss or acknowledge Dixon's case. He said commission rulings aren't legally binding.

"It's not an adjudication, but instead advice as to what should be done under the law or what should not be done, which is an entirely separate process," O'Donnell said.

He said enforcement sometimes follows when rulings aren't adhered to but added, "Usually, enforcement happens in situations where people haven't asked for advice."

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