Taneytown City Council introduces ethics ordinance amendments

The Taneytown City Council has introduced a bill that would change the city’s ethics ordinance, requiring elected officials to complete more stringent financial disclosure statements.

“The ethics ordinance amendment expands requirements for information which in turn improves transparency and increases accountability,” Councilman Joe Vigliotti wrote in an email to the Times. “Whether we’re elected officials or city employees, we’re all subject to the same rules and regulations, and we’re all ultimately beholden to citizens of Taneytown. They’ve entrusted us to lead this town, and so they naturally deserve to know these things about us.”


The city’s ethics ordinance requires elected officials to disclose their interests in real property — including the properties they own — interests in corporations and partnerships, interests in entities doing business with Taneytown, financial or in-kind gifts, employment, earned income and indebtedness to entities doing business with the city, among other provisions.

Ordinance 09-2018 would require elected officials to provide more detail about their properties and sources of income.

The introduction of the amendments comes after the city leveled Councilman Donald Frazier with code violations in November when a criminal summons revealed he was illegally renting apartments in the basement of his single-family home on Bentley Street. The city code prohibits “rental of rooms/apartments” in the district where Frazier’s home is located, the Nov. 7 notification letter from the city detailed.

Frazier wrote in a text message to the Times Jan. 2 that he would vote against the ordinance.

“It is way too much power vested in non-elected boards and commissions in local small town government,” he wrote.

If passed, the amendments to the ethics ordinance would require elected officials to detail the nature of each property they own, including whether it’s their principal residence and whether they’re renting or leasing any part of the property to anyone other than immediate family. It would also require those who are renting out property to declare those rentals as a source of income.

“It’s an important thing to have in there because it is a source of income that needs to be disclosed,” Councilman Bradley Wantz told the Times, “especially since now you’re involving other residents in the city, except now they have a vested interest in that candidate or in the council person because they owe them money.

“That’s an important thing when it comes to ethics because you don’t need things like that hidden and then things held over people’s heads.”

Mayor James McCarron added that including all sources of income is critical because income can help identify conflicts of interest.

“If you were a landlord and we were addressing landlord restrictions or registrations or something to do with rental property, then you’d assume that you’d recuse yourself,” McCarron told the Times. “But if you didn’t disclose that you wouldn’t have to recuse yourself. So it’s just a matter of being transparent.”

Councilwoman Judy Fuller echoed McCarron’s remarks in a phone interview.

Codifying more stringent financial disclosure requirements could make the process more challenging for elected officials.

“They are cumbersome. I will admit that,” Councilwoman Diane Foster, the mayor pro tem, told the Times. “If you want to run for office, these are the things you have to do. I didn’t like keeping up with it as a person that came from the old school of (not having forms), but I managed to do it.”