Arundel official violated ethics

Council chairman admits lobbying for accounting client

Klosterman reprimanded

July 12, 2000|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

Settling a long-running ethics investigation, the chairman of the Anne Arundel County Council has admitted he violated county ethics law by lobbying for an accounting client at two county agencies and before County Executive Janet S. Owens and other top officials.

Under a consent order released yesterday by the Anne Arundel County Ethics Commission, Daniel E. Klosterman Jr. pledged not to advocate for TGMI Contractors Inc. of Cockeysville or any other clients with county business.

He was reprimanded but not fined or otherwise punished.

But even as he made that promise, new information came to light indicating that Klosterman went to bat for TGMI last fall, after the ethics commission twice warned him not to do so.

On Nov. 1, Klosterman approached the head of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. and asked for help promoting development of airplane hangars at county-owned Tipton Airport, according to the June 30 consent order.

TGMI had expressed interest in a $1 million contract to build the hangars.

Previously it had been disclosed that Klosterman tried to help TGMI on numerous occasions during the first half of 1999.

In addition to pushing for the hangars, Klosterman grilled county officials over alleged late payments and other problems on a $14 million county jail addition TGMI was building.

Klosterman, a Millersville Democrat, did not return phone messages yesterday. In the past, he has said he made rookie mistakes - he was elected in 1998 - but his "intentions were honorable."

The consent order said he did not "knowingly or willfully" violate the ethics law.

"The bottom line is Danny didn't do anything willfully or maliciously wrong," said his lawyer and longtime friend Michael F. Gilligan. "He's seen the error of his ways, accepted a reprimand and wants to get on with his life."

The agreement apparently ends the commission's scrutiny of Klosterman's actions dating to early 1999, provoking at least one council member to call for time limits on such probes.

"What the commission wanted and what they got was an acknowledgement of the extent of wrongdoing, and that it, in fact, was a conflict of interest," said Betsy K. Dawson, the ethics commission's executive director.

The seven-member commission opted not to ask a circuit judge to fine Klosterman up to $1,000.

"I think a fine would have been appropriate, but that is not what the commission thought appropriate," Dawson said.

This spring, Klosterman fought attempts by the ethics commission to question him. He went so far as to persuade a judge to force the commission to justify its request. The case file remains sealed.

Klosterman's efforts to aid TGMI were brought to public attention last December in The Sun.

On Feb. 11, 1999, Klosterman told a meeting of the Tipton Airport Authority that TGMI wanted to build "T-hangars," designed to accommodate the shape of airplanes.

He had asked the ethics commission whether he could invest in a joint venture with TGMI to build hangars, but had not received a reply by the meeting.

When the ethics commission responded Feb. 22, it said that while it was not illegal for him to invest in the company, doing so would give the appearance of a conflict.

It also told him to avoid any matter involving Tipton if TGMI or any other client of his was seeking to do business there.

Around this time, Klosterman tried to help TGMI resolve concerns about the jail project. He met with Owens, a Democrat, about alleged late payments, never disclosing his ties to the company.

She referred him to county Chief Administrative Officer Jerome W. Klasmeier, who said he told Klosterman to "stay out of it" because he knew of the apparent conflict of interest.

Klosterman later arranged a meeting between Klasmeier and a TGMI representative.

At a budget hearing May 6, 1999, Klosterman questioned public works engineer Richard Rice about the "communication and cooperation" problem the department was having with TGMI at the jail, about TGMI workers' inability to enter secure areas of the jail and about problems TGMI said existed with the design plans.

He mentioned his meeting with Owens and said, "I would hope she follows through with it, and I think she will."

At another budget hearing in May, Klosterman once again injected himself into a discussion on Tipton. This time the topic was the airport authority's budget and its plans for "outside capitalization."

On June 30, 1999, the ethics commission cleared him in the February meeting before the airport board because he had not received the advisory opinion by then.

But Dawson urged him in writing to "refrain from any further active involvement in behalf of TGMI in its business or proposed business with the county."

Four months later, Klosterman bumped into William A. Badger, chief executive officer of the county economic development corporation, at Tipton's official opening.

The two had an "impromptu" conversation, according to the consent order, and discussed development of T-hangars.

Gilligan, Klosterman's lawyer, said yesterday that his client's interest stemmed from the fact that he is a recreational pilot, not TGMI's accountant.

"He's interested in T-hangars because he has the knowledge T-hangars promote a good airport," Gilligan said. "In order for an airport to survive, it's essential they have T-hangars, no matter who builds them."

Gilligan also doubted the reprimand will hurt Klosterman's re-election chances in 2002.

"I'm sure some people would hold it against him, but I hope people can see the forest through the trees," said Gilligan, a former councilman. "They'll see he was trying to help a friend, made a mistake and he's been reprimanded."

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