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A war of words in Owings Mills

It is perfectly legitimate to make a case against the rezoning of Solo Cup based on the issues. But Councilman Kenneth Oliver stoops beneath the level of civilized discourse when he resorts to groundless character assassination and claims that "the fix is in" ("A better process for Solo Cup," Aug. 22).

The councilman's accusation is a direct frontal assault on 2nd District Councilwoman Vicki Almond, a freshman member of the council who will cast the deciding vote on the Solo Cup rezoning issue, which is in her district. Councilwoman Almond has an unblemished record of integrity since she began her career as a public figure. She quickly gained the confidence of her colleagues on the council, who elected her chairwoman shortly after taking office.

If Councilman Oliver is going to impugn his colleague's character by casting baseless aspersions, constituents should take a moment to review his own record as an elected official. He has served three terms on the council and has never been elected council chair by his peers. More than once, he has engaged in activities that have raised questions about his judgment and ethics.

In 2009, he pled guilty to multiple campaign finance violations, paid a fine, received probation and performed community service. This verdict marked the first time a sitting councilman had ever been found guilty of a crime in Baltimore County.

In 2011, it was revealed that the councilman had violated a County Charter rule that prohibits County Council members from working for state agencies. For nine months, before he was forced to resign the state position, he simultaneously earned his annual salary of $54,000 as a Baltimore County councilman and $62,000 per year as a finance specialist for the state Department of Business and Economic Development. He tried and failed to abolish that same rule in 2006, so he was definitely aware of the prohibition when he accepted the position. He never made restitution for the salary he collected from the state.

As if that weren't bad enough, while he was double-dipping, he raised even more serious ethical questions by casting a vote on an economic development issue relating to the state agency he was employed by, creating an obvious conflict of interest.

Most recently, Councilman Oliver proposed a bill in May 2012 that would have exempted the Owings Mills Metro Centre, which he favors over the Solo Cup project, from county rules that oversee parking, signage and building size — a virtual "blank check" for the site's developer, Howard Brown. It was vetoed by the county executive.

He says "the fix is in," but now I'm confused. Which council member is he referring to, and which developer?

Words matter in a civil society. This is not about rezoning, it is about returning to civility.

— Ruth Goldstein

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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