So Where Does the Ethics Commission Complaint Stand? We’re Waiting for Word.

Since March when Bob Litzenberg drafted a complaint for Elkton’s Ethics Commission, the town has apparently been occupied with getting the matter handled.  After months of delay in addressing the letter drafted on March 19, it was finally reported in a town meeting that the commission was going to meet on May 26. That date has passed so we’ve been in touch with officials to get a statement.  Although we’ve communicated with the municipality, we have little news to report this Friday evening. As soon as local government releases something letting the public know whether the meeting took place or had to be delayed, if the committee has more fact-finding to be done, or if a determination has been made, we’ll update readers. Of course there are rumors (Elkton always has those), but we’ll work to get official word.

The only new information we acquired at this point is that this is not the first time the town has had an ethics board review.  After Bob asked about the investigation, lots of people were confused including the elected leadership. The untidy way this was handled through a series of public meetings gave us the impression that the town had never handled an ethics query. Officials informed us that they’ve had other complaints.

The letter asked for a ruling concerning a conflict of interest with Commissioner Mary Jo Jablonski and her full-time position as the Director of the Elkton Alliance, specifically as it concerns voting on financial matters associated with the independent nonprofit.  The town is its major revenue source, allocating funds for the group to provide leadership in revitalizing the downtown area.  After nearly a month passed by and town officials hadn’t answered Bob’s letter, he stood up at a public meeting to ask about the matter. That query stunned the entire board since a surprised look came over the political leadership. It did not appear that any of them, including the Mayor and Commissioner Jablonski, knew about the matter. A confusing exchange ensued (see our earlier post for details).

When May rolled around, he still hadn’t heard from anyone so when he asked again more bewilderment resulted. Both he and Commissioner Jablonski were still waiting for an answer and she reported that no one had informed her about the nature of the ruling request.   At the May budget workshop, with a deadline fast approaching for acceptance of the municipal budget, the commissioners lapsed into a discussion about whether it was okay for the Alliance Director and Main Street manager to vote on the town budget, which contained operating income for the nonprofit. The attorney told the board in a public meeting that it was, but it was also announced that the Ethics Commission was finally going to meet on May 26 to make a determination of whether it was a conflict of interest.  At the last meeting in May the new municipal budget was approved by a 4 to 1 vote, with Commissioner Storke voting against it, while all the other elected officials, including commissioner Jablonski voted to approve the document, which included $50,000 for Elkton’s Main Street program.

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2 responses to “So Where Does the Ethics Commission Complaint Stand? We’re Waiting for Word.

  1. Mary Jo is doing a real good job with making Elkton a better place. She has a bunch volunteers, that aren’t costing the town anything finally makings things happen down town. Bunch of people just doing this for politics. That all there is to it. Politics. Let her do her job. There is no conflict of Ethics. She has a board that approves her paycheck.

    • Anon I think we’re going to have to just wait and see what the Ethics commission ruling is. For me Anon, I’d encourage officials to be more proactive and ask for rulings long before they have to become contested public matters. If there’s potential for even a perceived conflict why not, right up front, ask for a formal ruling from the board. That way you have the official determination, the one mandated by the town charter. Or why not say, look, while I don’t believe there’s a conflict, I’m not going to vote on these matters because someone could perceive a problem. How simple is that? But, as I said, I think officials should make proactive use of the commission and ask for rulings before formal complaints are filed. Whatever, we’ll see what the three-member ethics board comes up with once they review Elkton’s Ethics Standard, complete their fact-finding and come to a conclusion.

      On how things are going downtown, there are more challenges than ever for bringing vitality back to our town center. Each place has to ID its strengths. The one I always thought Elkton had was being the center of county employment. We’ve allowed that to slip away and we’ve become the criminal justice center. There are other opportunities in Elkton, but they need lots of focused attention these days.

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