VOCAL Carroll County releases 2012 emails following Rothschild announcement as ethics ordinance hearing looms

VOCAL Carroll County releases 2012 emails following Rothschild announcement as ethics ordinance hearing looms
Carroll County Commissioners Richard Rothschild speaks during the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce State of the County Address at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster on Tuesday January 10, 2017. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO)

Hours after Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, announced he would not seek a third term, and a day before the Board of County Commissioners ethics ordinance goes to public hearing, local grassroots organization VOCAL Carroll County released emails from 2012 that show concern over Rothschild’s intentions in his pushback against the ethics ordinance.

Obtained through a Public Information Act request by VOCAL, an April 2012 email from then-Carroll County Ethics Administrator Dale Piper to the State Ethics Commission General Counsel Jennifer Allgair, lays out concerns over Rothschild’s efforts to shape the ethics ordinance nearly six years ago.


The Board of County Commissioners is set to hold a hearing Tuesday night on the draft of the ethics ordinance. The public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. in Room 003 in the County Office Building. But prior to the public hearing, Rothschild has scheduled a presentation at 6:20 p.m. in Room 311 of the County Office Building to address his concerns about the proposal.

Rothschild has spoken out against moving forward with the current draft and voted against moving to public hearing at the January meeting.

In Piper’s email, he expressed concern over a draft he received and said he would ask the State Ethics Commission to pay “special attention” to the exemption section.

“Commissioner Rothschild has added additional exemption criteria to the section; he is determined that he will not include his wife’s financial data on his Financial Disclosure Form,” Piper wrote. “(As background, Commissioner Rothschild requested an exemption from filing a financial Disclosure Form when he filed as a candidate for election to the Board of County Commissioners. His request was heard and denied by the Carroll County Ethics Commission. Upon learning that he was required to file a Financial Disclosure Form he transferred ownership on certain of his assets to his wife. Now that his wife is the legal owner of these assets he does not want this information to become public information by having to include his wife’s financial information on his Financial Disclosure Form. His additional exemption criteria gives the County Attorney, rather than the Ethics Commission, the right to grant an exemption.)”

In an email to the Times, Rothschild said many years ago, his wife was a victim of a crime that “threatened our lives and property.”

“This upsetting experience sensitized us to the needs of crime victims, and the need to be represented during drafting of government policies,” he said. “To that end, I am doing everything in my power to protect future candidates and officials, that may also have family members who are also victims of crime. Needlessly intrusive disclosures, with no safety valves, that place innocent officials, their family members, or property at risk, is morally wrong, serves no valid public purpose, and is an injustice. This is one of the shortcomings in the proposed ethics ordinance I am attempting to rectify.”

Discussions around the ethics ordinance, which have come up several times since a state law was passed by the General Assembly in 2010, were recently brought back up by VOCAL Carroll County after it approached the board at the end of last year.

The group presented a letter to commissioners in November requesting the board move forward on passing a stronger ethics ordinance that is in accordance with the state law. The law requires all jurisdictions — including counties, municipalities and boards of education — to pass ethics ordinances that are at least as strict as those required of state officials. Carroll has been the only county in Maryland that is not in compliance with the law.

With the Board of County Commissioners’ recent steps toward implementing an ethics ordinance that is in compliance, the county has been removed from the state’s out of compliance list.

While the county has a draft proposal of the ethics ordinance, a letter and cover email from Allgair obtained by VOCAL through a Maryland Public Information Act request outlines a few changes required in the draft in order to obtain approval for a revised ethics ordinance.

“My recommendation is that the county provide instruction to candidates on its interpretation of the candidate’s financial disclosure requirements — that all candidates for election in 2018 must file a financial disclosure statement meeting the requirements of the new ethics law after it is enacted — rather that using language other than the Model A, Model B or Public Ethics Law language in this provision,” Allgair wrote in an email dated Feb. 23 to Carroll County Attorney Tim Burke. “The State Ethics Commission’s next meeting is April 19, 2018. I am hopeful that there will be another revised ethics law draft for review from Carroll County for that meeting. Thank you very much for the work you have done on this matter. The Commission was pleased to see progress from Carroll County on this matter after efforts had stalled.”

The release of the 2012 email from Allgair comes just hours after Rothschild publicly announced he would not run for a third term as commissioner, something that had been up in the air for months.

No third term

Rothschild, a Republican, sent a news release Monday morning to the Carroll County Times announcing that he won’t seek a third term representing District 4 on the Board of County Commissioners, instead making his intentions known that he plans to seek one of nine seats on the county’s Republican Central Committee.


“I voted for term limits, and intend to keep my word,” Rothschild wrote in the prepared statement emailed on the eve of the filing deadline for this year’s primary election. “I trust the 73% that elected me, will remember me with two words: PROMISES-KEPT” before listing a number of accomplishments during his time in office.

“Most importantly,” he wrote, “I’ve shown ‘Republi-Can’ts’ how to fight-back against overwhelming odds; and will seek a position on the Central Committee to help train the next generation of Republi-Cans.” The same release was later sent as an official county news release, with a slight wording change to remove a specific reference to the central committee, although Rothschild officially filed for that race Monday, according to the Maryland Board of Elections website.

In response to a question from the Times, Rothschild said he changed the release from the county email to not include his running for the central committee because he didn’t want to violate any ethics requirements.


Rothschild voted in 2011, along with the other four members of the board, to limit Carroll County commissioners to two consecutive four-year terms, which was later approved by the General Assembly. However, he has been coy about whether he would seek a third term over the past year. In March 2017, he told the Times he did not believe the term limits law was binding to him or Commissioner Doug Howard, the only two holdovers from the 2010 board.

“Historically, under the Maryland Constitution, elected bodies have been generally limited to rules and compensation changes that are implemented prospectively, not retrospectively,” Rothschild said last March. “If you change salaries of elected officials, it applies the next time. If you change benefits, it applies the next time around.”

That statement came on the heels of a letter from Adam Snyder, chief counsel for opinions and advice with the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, to the State Board of Elections that “any [Carroll County] commissioners who were elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014 are ineligible to seek a third consecutive term in 2018.”

As recently as the beginning of this month, Rothschild said he had not decided whether to seek a third term. In a text to the Times, Rothschild wrote he was “carefully surveying the field of candidates and offices, and will make a last minute decision based on whether or not candidates are running that are firmly committed to upholding Republican principles.”

As of 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26, four Republican candidates had filed to seek Rothschild’s seat in District 4, composed of the southwestern portion of Carroll. They are Christopher Eric Bouchat, of Woodbine, Paul Burkett, of Mount Airy, Bret Grossnickle, of Union Bridge, and Sean Shaffer, of Westminster. Rothschild did not indicate in his release if he supported any of these candidates. No Democrats have filed in District 4.

The filing deadline for the 2018 primary election in Maryland is 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27. The primary is Tuesday, June 26, with early voting from Thursday, June 14, to Thursday, June 21.

All five seats on the Board of County Commissioners will be up for grabs.

As of 4 p.m. Monday, there were multiple Republican candidates in all five commissioner races except in District 2, made up primarily of Hampstead and Finksburg, where Commissioner Richard Weaver is seeking a second term.

In District 5, which includes Eldersburg and Sykesville, and where Howard has served as commissioner since 2010, there are three Republican candidates: Frank Robert, Ed Rothstein and Kathy Fuller, who filed Monday.

In District 1, which includes Taneytown, Manchester and the Silver Run area, incumbent Stephen Wantz faces a challenge from Katherine Adelaide, of Taneytown.

In District 3, which is the area primarily surrounding and including the City of Westminster, incumbent Dennis Frazier is running against Tom Gordon. Doug Mathias filed Monday to run in District 3 as a Democrat, and is thus far unopposed in the primary.

Rothschild is the latest name in a crowded field of 18 vying for nine seats on the county’s Republican Central Committee. The central committee is the governing body of the county’s Republican Party. The committee may submit names to the governor to fill vacancies in the General Assembly and other bodies, recruits and trains candidates for office, and participates in promotion of the party’s candidates and issues, among other duties.