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Kennedy: Taneytown's ethics laws seem fair

It looks like the local “burr under the saddle” of the government in the little hamlet that I call home is at it again. The City Council of Taneytown voted to clarify and slightly stiffen the ethics statutes in regard to the financing for our local elections. Councilman Donald Frazier, as we all should have expected, was the lone dissenter who voted to oppose both of the new proposals.

The new financial disclosure ordinance requires candidates to list all forms and sources of income for themselves and members of their immediate family as well as debts to entities doing business with the city. This ordinance applies to all elected officials as well as select, un-elected city staff. Frazier's objections centered around the scope of the information required.

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The new campaign finance ordinance simply allows — but does not require — the Ethics Commission to fine the campaign organization for a candidate if the required campaign finance reports are willfully incomplete or inaccurate. This allows for the Ethics Commission to determine the severity of any violation and the level of intent to violate the statute and act accordingly. The ordinance also defines who must file these reports and who is exempt, such as self funded campaigns, and the requirements of any political committee which collects and disburses funds in support of a particular candidate.

Neither of these new laws seems particularly onerous to me, but Councilman Frazier argued vigorously and voted against both. One has to wonder what he wishes to hide, as he is up for re-election this May.

A bit of history is needed here. Almost four years ago, then candidate Frazier submitted the required financial disclosure forms at or near the deadline that was advertised. However, the Ethics Commission found that the forms were incomplete and requested that they be amended. This scenario played out multiple times so the matter was referred to the Taneytown Board of Elections for a determination as to whether Frazier's name would appear on the ballot. (In full disclosure, I am a member of that board.) The board, after much civil debate, decided that to be fair to the candidate and to the town's voters, Frazier's name would appear since his final revisions, although submitted well past the stated deadline, met the requirements. He was subsequently elected to the council.

In the intervening years, Mr. Frazier has been censured several times for actions that were contrary to council rules or city ordinances. Most recently he has been cited and fined for illegally renting out a portion of his personal residence in an area where such action is expressly forbidden by city zoning regulations.

On the countywide discussion that is bound to get much more contentious as we go on, I'll state up front that I'm all for charter government for Carroll County. For the life of me I can't understand why some want to continue the process of going, hat in hand, to Annapolis to have those from the far reaches of the state decide what we, in our little bit of heaven, can or can't do. Aren't the citizens of this county astute enough to decide for ourselves if our Sheriff or State’s Attorney, or other official deserves a pay raise, or if we can install an artificial turf field, or the myriad of other things that only affect us but require approval by the state legislature?

I'm encouraged that the Board of County Commissioners have decided to explore the possibilities of charter or code home rule for our county, although I would prefer the charter option. At least commissioners are bringing in representatives from counties that have recently gone through the process to get some idea as to the pros and cons of switching. Some opponents declare that charter government will be exorbitantly expensive and that taxes will rise if we go that route. I'm willing to wait for the reports from those who have already gone through the process and have some experience before I make a decision based on that point alone.

I believe that the charter form of local government is more streamlined and effective than the commissioner form that we now have, it would provide a single voice to represent Carroll County before the legislature in Annapolis and at the Maryland Association of Counties, who meet annually. It also provides a single person to whom the various department heads would report, making the business of government much more effective.

I ask all county voters to wait, evaluate the information, and then decide whether to move our local government into the 21st century or remain in the 18th.

I just had an idea on how to get the Prez and Nancy to get the government employees working again. How about Nancy putting out a compromise on the funding of the border barrier (wall, fence, etc., whatever.) In exchange for Trump fully funding the government at current levels through the end of the fiscal year in September, the Dems agree to fund the wall by matching 2 for 1 up to $4 billion, every dollar that Mexico puts up. If fully funded, that would give Trump $6 billion for the wall and any other security measures and he could claim that Mexico did pay for the wall as he had promised. Now getting the Mexican government to pony up even one peso is more than problematic. It's just a thought.

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