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Council adopts Appeals Board ethics rules


The County Council spelled out a set of ethics rules Monday night for the influential Board of Appeals, a move designed to both discourage conflicts of interest and handle complaints.

Although the bill was expected to be controversial, the council adopted it unanimously with no discussion or debate. Anthony V. Lamartina, president of the seven-member board, said he "applauded" the legislation, which establishes a procedure to respond to complaints about unprofessional conduct.

The measure requires that the board "be diligent, industrious and judicious" and avoid any "actions that may embarrass or discredit [it] in the eyes of the public." It also says members may not "engage in activities that may have the appearance of impropriety."

Complaints against a board member could lead to a reprimand, suspension or removal from the board. At least four members must refer an alleged violation to the council for action.

The legislation was introduced after a woman filed a complaint last winter against board member Joseph A. Johnson, claiming he confronted and harassed her during an official site visit. Mr. Johnson was cleared by the county attorney, who also serves as the ethics officer. But the attorney recommended that a law be established giving the council the power to discipline board members.

Members of the quasi-judicial board, which resolves more than 100 administrative and land-use disputes each year, are appointed by the council and receive an annual $5,200 stipend. The board is the last resort to settle a zoning dispute or administrative problem before heading to court.

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