Carroll ethics panel is abolished

February 12, 2003|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

The Carroll commissioners abolished the county's embattled ethics commission yesterday in favor of an appointed ethics officer who will oversee enforcement of the county ethics code.

The vote came after two months of rancor over the fate of the ethics board but only began the commissioners' efforts to revamp ethics policing in the county, leaving many details uncertain.

The three-member ethics commission had been investigating accusations against Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge for more than a year, but the commissioners said yesterday's unanimous vote was not meant to thwart that investigation or punish those who conducted it.

The commissioners said the vote was instead a first step toward chasing political bias from the ethics enforcement process. They have accused the three members of the deposed ethics panel - James F.W. Talley, John Harner and Suzanne Primoff - of conducting witch hunts against political foes such as Gouge.

"This removes politics from the process as much as we can without abdicating our responsibility," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich.

Gouge, who had recused herself from previous votes affecting the ethics panel, said she was comfortable voting for the changes because they were intended to improve a county policy and had nothing to do with the individual members of the ethics commission.

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