One of two Republicans on the County Council has asked the Anne Arundel ethics commission to review a land exchange involving County Executive Janet S. Owens and a country club partly owned by her campaign treasurer. But some council members say there is nothing to investigate.
Councilman John J. Klocko III of Crofton questioned whether the move - in which the county deeded title to a 16-acre floodplain back to the Old South Country Club early last year - violated county ethics law.
County Attorney Linda M. Schuett, who works for both Owens, a Democrat, and the council, said the transfer legally corrected a 9-year-old drafting error.
Title to the land, she said, was inadvertently given to the county in 1990, though a subdivision agreement called for the county to hold only an easement to prevent construction in the floodplain. Owens signed a document transferring the land after a bank conducting a title search noticed that the club did not own the 16 acres.
Schuett said county law does not require the county to own floodplains. Nor, she said, did the Owens administration have to tell the council that the land was being returned.
Klocko, a lawyer, disagreed with Schuett.
"There are portions of this transaction that, in my opinion, do not comply with the County law," Klocko stated in a four-paragraph letter to the ethics commission. "It involves individuals who are close policy advisers, friends and political contributors of the County Executive and transpired soon after she took office."
Among the country club's part-owners is William F. Chaney, a lifelong friend of Owens who serves as her campaign treasurer. Chaney helped develop the South County club, which is ringed by expensive homes, and he is on the club's board of directors.
Chaney has said the club did not benefit financially by regaining title to the land - which Klocko doesn't dispute. The club cannot build in the wooded floodplain, Chaney said, and owning the land would not alter open-space calculations to permit construction elsewhere on the property.
Owens said last week that she thought critics were trying to embarrass her and "make political hay" by raising suspicions about the land transfer.
"County Executive Owens will watch the system work as it was designed," spokesman Andrew C. Carpenter said. "But she remains steadfast in her conviction that this was an instance where the transaction met the scrutiny of the bureaucracy at all levels."
Betsy K. Dawson, the ethics commission's executive director, could not be reached for comment.
Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle, a Linthicum Democrat, said she does not share Klocko's concerns. Beidle said Schuett explained the situation to her and answered her questions.
Councilwoman Shirley Murphy, a Pasadena Democrat, has said that she, too, was satisfied by Schuett's interpretation.
But Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk, an Annapolis Democrat, supports Klocko's request.
"It bears further examination," she said.