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Carroll County Times
Carroll County News

Carroll County commissioners to update ethics rules regarding retaliation against whistleblowers, financial disclosures

The Board of Carroll County Commissioners will soon update the county’s ethics ordinance to reflect changes in state law prohibiting retaliation against whistleblowers and restricting gifts or financial gain for county officials or employees from certain organizations.

“State law says that counties and local governments must have ordinances that are at least as strict or stricter than the state law,” according to Carroll County Attorney Tim Burke, who introduced proposed amendments to the county’s ethics ordinance during the board’s Sept. 22 meeting.

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Commissioners voted unanimously to hold a public hearing on the proposed amendments, but no date was set for the hearing.

The amendments to county law will correspond with changes made by the Maryland General Assembly in 2021.

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New conflict of interest provisions state that an official or employee of a local government may not knowingly accept a gift, directly or indirectly, from a person that the official or employee knows is doing business or seeking to do business with the Maryland Association of Counties or the Maryland Municipal League.

MACo and MML are both nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations that support local governments across the state.

“For some reason someone down in Annapolis felt important that you treat MML and MACo like any lobbying group for the purpose of any gifts or dinners that you receive from them,” Burke said.

Government officials must disclose gifts in excess of $20 in value from an association or any entity in Maryland that only represents counties or municipal corporations. That includes MML and MACo.

Another amendment prohibits officials and employees from disclosing or using confidential information for economic benefit. This now includes former government officials and former government employees.

The new provisions would also prohibit an official from retaliating against an individual for reporting or participating in an investigation of a potential violation of local ethics law.

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Further, commissioners will be required to disclose any personal or business relationship with the University of Maryland Medical System, with a state or local government in Maryland, and with a quasi-governmental entity of the state or local government.

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