Annapolis alderman to contest ethics ruling

Panel urged barring Fox from role in county issues

August 28, 2002|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

An Annapolis alderman who works for the Anne Arundel County planning office said yesterday that he would challenge a county Ethics Commission opinion that recommends prohibiting him from any city role on issues that could adversely affect the county.

In the nonbinding advisory opinion issued Aug. 14, the commission said Michael Fox -- a second-term Republican in Ward 7 -- can continue in his role as an alderman as long as he recuses himself from discussions and votes on "legislative activity that might be contrary to the county's interest."

This would include annexation and discussion of the tax differential, which is the difference in county taxes that city residents pay compared with other county residents.

Fox said he will request that the commission reconsider the opinion, which he said "doesn't make sense."

He said he worries that the opinion, requested by county Planning Director Denis Canavan, could apply to a wide range of city matters. He will decide whether to vote on annexations and other issues on a "case-by-case basis," he said.

As a senior planner in the county's Office of Planning, Fox said he does not do any work involving the Annapolis area and is not in a management or decision-making role for the county.

"I don't see how there is a conflict," he said.

Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer yesterday called the opinion an "illogical interpretation of the law" and questioned the effect the opinion could have on the workings of the city council, especially if applied to other county employees.

Ward 5 Alderman David H. Cordle is chief investigator for the state's attorney's office, and Ward 1 Alderman Louise Hammond's husband is the county budget officer. Moyer also questioned the effect on Del. Michael E. Busch, an Annapolis Democrat, who works in the county recreation and parks agency.

Betsy Dawson, executive director of the Ethics Commission, and commission Chairman Alan Legum could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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