Official testifies to ethics panel

Annapolis employee seeks ruling on role in hiring of friend

July 26, 2008|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

An Annapolis employee who wrote a proposal to hire a man with whom she said she has a personal relationship to run an academic symposium on the state capital's history testified this week before the city's Ethics Commission.

Karen Engelke, special-events coordinator for the city, declined to discuss what she said at Wednesday's closed hearing, noting strict confidentiality rules. She said she voluntarily called for the commission to examine her actions after media reports last month that she had a business and personal relationship with Joseph Meany of New York, who was hired to develop the program as part of the city's celebration of the 300th anniversary of its charter.

Yesterday, however, she said that she and Meany are not business partners. His association with a consulting firm that she runs from her Cornhill Street home was indicated in city records. Engelke now says that listing Meany as an employee of the company, Samuel Hutton Associates, was "a mistake."

"Whatever the outcome of the Ethics Commission, we're damaged forever," Engelke said in an interview. "All this because of a little rumor-mongering. This is damaging. It's irretrievable. This doesn't go away. I don't have to justify myself to anyone but the city of Annapolis."

She declined to comment further, pending the findings of the commission.

She has said that Meany was paid $14,000 for his work.

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer said yesterday of the allegations: "It's not a whole bunch of money, and I don't personally believe that she benefited financially. ... But we'll wait for the ethics committee."

Rex S. Caldwell III, acting chairman of the Ethics Commission, declined to comment on the matter, pointing to the commission's confidentiality policy.

Anyone subject to the city's ethics code can request an advisory opinion, which the commission has up to 60 days to issue, he said. Anyone can file a complaint with the commission, which would review it along with the city attorney, who would decide to refer the matter to the commission or drop it.

The Sun first reported on the link between Engelke and Meany after the weekend program on the role of Queen Anne in the city's history. How much Meany was paid remained unclear yesterday. He could not be reached for comment.

Jennifer Navabi, executive director of the Annapolis Community Foundation, which has handled finances for Annapolis Charter 300, the nonprofit group organizing the city's celebration, said that according to an invoice that Meany submitted in March last year, he was paid $3,075 for developing the symposium. She said she could not find any other records that could account for other payments to reach the $14,000 figure.

"At no time was there a disclosure of a personal or professional relationship with Joe," Navabi said. "And now that we're aware of the issue that's being examined, we will evaluate our procedure, given what's come to light. We don't sanction inappropriate conduct by any means."

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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