The Carroll County commissioners approved yesterday a new ethics code that will give the county a six-member ethics commission and a more detailed blueprint for investigating suspected ethics violations.
The commissioners took a few minutes to endorse the code, produced by a task force they appointed in March to revamp the county's ethics enforcement policies.
The commissioners said they will appoint a new ethics commission as soon as next week. The ethics panel probably will include at least a few members from the task force that wrote the code, the commissioners said.
"I think the code as presented to us addresses any of the problems and concerns we had going into the future," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich.
The commissioners called for changes in the code after disbanding the previous ethics commission, which they accused of conducting political "witch hunts" against several people, including Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge.
Because of vague language in the ethics policy, the county commissioners said, the panel was able to pursue such investigations with no public justification and with no end in sight.
The commissioners approved the new ethics policy one day after State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli released his report on ethics allegations against Gouge, clearing the commissioner of criminal wrongdoing, but saying that some of her actions had the appearance of impropriety.
The commissioners say they hope the new code will eliminate the confusion that often surrounded the Gouge case.
The most significant change in the ethics code brings back an ethics panel, appointed by the commissioners, that has twice as many members as the former version.