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Baltimore's ethical fantasyland

Please, can I have a cushy municipal job paying $94,000 a year with no oversight of that position and also be able to have plenty of extra time to do additional private work on the side? Well, maybe so. Baltimore City is paying someone to do just that, and the beneficiary is Avery Aisenstark ("Ethics board gone AWOL,"? Nov. 13).

Get this: The city hired Mr. Aisenstark to provide advice on ethical matters, like whether city officials can accept gifts from developers. The city also created a seven-member Board of Legislative Reference to oversee the activities of Mr. Aisenstark. Wait a second, the board hasn't met in over six years, and possibly, has never convened to discuss Mr. Aisenstark's 15-year performance in office.

Now Mr. Aisenstark is coming under fire for a possible conflict of interest relating to his private work done on behalf of the Committee for Zoning Integrity. Will the board weigh in on Mr. Aisenstark's actions? Apparently not. If you can believe it, the board and its seven members, as described in the Baltimore City Charter, are not even aware of the board's existence. It doesn't get much better than this.

Morton D. Marcus, Baltimore

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