After Citizen Asks About Ethics Commission Complaint, Lots of People Were Wondering Including Political Leadership

At the April 15 town board meeting, Bob Litzenberg inquired about the status of an Ethics Commission Complaint he’d filed against Commissioner Mary Jo Jablonski.  His brief one sentence query seemed to stun the entire town board since a surprised look came over the political leadership. It did not appear that any of them knew about the matter, including the Mayor or Commissioner Jablonski.

With a few brief moments of confusion following, Bob brought some clarity back to the situation by asking in his own surprised way, “You mean you people don’t know about the complaint I filed?”  At this point, the town administrator and attorney started speaking up. Yes we know about the complaint and it’s been handed over to our ethics commission was generally the way the conversation went.  To that a follow up question was tossed at the political leadership but the professional staff was stepping up to handle the exchange for the elected officials.

By the time the next logical query came, “Well have they met?” the professional staff had the ball and was running with it.  Someone said no.  Someone said yes.  Someone added they met but they didn’t have a quorum!  As for Someone Noticed, we along with the Cecil Whig, and the public watched all the other official some-ones answer questions or look on with amazement.  And that’s the way it was on a Wednesday evening  at the Elkton Town Meeting.

The members of the public that were present to see this interaction departed from the room wondering what was going on since none of the elected officials seemed to know anything about the matter.  However we noticed a number of interesting side discussions going on after the meeting broke up.

It’s been almost two weeks since that transaction took place and we’ve been looking for a press release from the town, which would at least let the public know the basics, including the status of the ethics investigation.

Although we’ve been working on this important story, which took place in an open meeting, we’ve still got some digging to do since nothing has been released by the town. We assume the Cecil Whig is working on this too since it’s an important public matter (and news story) on the small town beat.  But they’ve apparently come up with less than we have at Someone Noticed since nothing has appeared in the daily paper.

While we wait for the report on the Elkton Ethics Commission Investigation, we’ve asked about the process.  The town’s professional staff is not involved in the matter according to the town administrator. “If the Town receives an ethics complaint about a Town official, we turn it over to the Ethics Commission, a three-member panel appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Commissioners,” Lewis George said. “As the Town Administrator, I’m not directly involved in the investigation of the complaint, nor do I participate in any deliberations of an ethics question involving an elected official. . . .” When asked about a policy since there seemed to be such confusion, the administrator said to his knowledge “the Mayor and Commissioners have not developed any policy specific to ethics-related issues, therefore only the Town’s Code, Chapter 2.16 – Code of Ethics, governs this particular realm of conduct.”

We’ll get more information out on this story as the town figures out how to handle a complaint and it goes through the process.

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5 responses to “After Citizen Asks About Ethics Commission Complaint, Lots of People Were Wondering Including Political Leadership

  1. My understanding on an ethics question is that is goes directly to the chair of the ethics commission. The ethics chair would make the Mayor and Commissioners aware of the issue and or violations. Unless the complaint is made to the Mayor and Commissioners along with the ethics board they would probably never be aware of the issue

  2. Rob:

    What struck us the most about this is that the citizen had to ask about the status and that Commissioner Jablonski, the subject of the complaint, wasn’t even aware of it. If the citizen hadn’t asked in public what would have happened? Would it have just gone away? (Surely there’s some method to let the citizen know the complaint was received and is being processed.) The citizen was just as surprised as the entire Board of Commissioners were and the attending public. It caused some lively discussions afterwards.

    Surely there is some process or best practice that should be followed. Set-up the process so its outlined before you get the next crisis to be managed. Then once you have that get ahead of the information flow. It’s always better to be proactive on these things, especially these days. Now you probably won’t release the details but you’d do something like this. Let the public know, in a general sort of way, that an investigation is being handled by the Ethics Commission and that once the investigation is completed the summary findings will be realized. Something like that, but at least define it. It will come across in a much more professional way.

    Also, surely the Commissioner involved in the investigation would have to have a chance to present a defense to the complaint. It appeared to us that she was just as surprised (what a way to find out) as everyone else and a town official has confirmed that none of the commissioners knew anything about it.

  3. You say there’s an ethics complaint, but you don’t say what the complaint is. What’s the matter. Tell us what the complaint was about. We should know this type of thing. Then we should know if its founded or unfounded. You aren’t telling us the entire story.

  4. Darn it, there you go again Joe. You cost people plenty already. What ya going to do to us this year Joe.

  5. Harvey:

    We haven’t dropped the ball on this for we realize there’s much more to this immportant news story. We’ll find out about the nature of the complaint and also when the investigaiton is done, we’ll report on the outcome of the investigation.

    I tell you what surprises me is that anytime I’ve filed a freedom of information act request or called for info so I could report on something, the affected official knows about it before I can arrive at the town hall to pick up the documents. A few weeks ago I phoned to get a copy of a report. Before I could get to the town hall a short time later to pick it up, the involved elected official was asking to meet with me. Thus the town’s telegraphic news system is working just fine on these types of requests, so I would’ve thought that on something as significant as an Ethics complaint would definitely had the drums beating in town hall circles.

    When small town municipal government is your beat, these types of things are important stories, whatever the outcome of the investigation. If the investigaiton is cleared of course you want the public to know that, but if some sort of corrective action needs to be taken you want the public to know that too.

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