Panel: Ulman and Ball did not violate ethics rules

Commission dismissed complaint

February 12, 2011|By Larry Carson, The Baltimore Sun

The Howard County Ethics Commission has dismissed claims that County Executive Ken Ulman and County Council Chairman Calvin Ball improperly used political influence to get a Republican activist fired as the local Chamber of Commerce's government lobbyist.

Diane Wilson, a former County Council candidate, filed the complaint Jan. 19, saying that Ulman and Ball, both Democrats, used the prestige of their public offices to get her fired after one week as the business group's lobbyist. Ulman denied that, saying that he merely reported to a chamber official that other county Democrats would be reluctant to work with Wilson because of her strong partisan background.

"I think it speaks for itself," Ball said about the commission's four-page ruling. Ulman concurred via Kevin Enright, his spokesman.

The ethics commission ruled in a written decision issued Friday that the complaint "does not come within the scope of the Public Ethics Law because the acts alleged were not directly related to public business."

The decision also said that "the facts, even if true, do not violate" the law, because "the Executive and the Councilman expressed opinions, which were not directly related to, and had no direct impact on the county, county business or a government action." In addition, the commission's four members noted that the complaint was not taken under oath, as required by law.

Wilson has said she was outraged that she lost a private-sector job through what she felt was improper political influence.

Since Democrats hold lopsided majorities in both county government and Howard's General Assembly delegations, Wilson's job would have been to inform and influence elected officials whom she had tried to defeat — one as recently as November's election.

Wilson could not be reached for comment Saturday.

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