With a deadline fast approaching for acceptance of the municipal budget, the Mayor and Commissioners were occupied with discussing revenue and expenditures at the workshop this afternoon. As they worked their way through the spreadsheets crammed with numbers, the discussion suddenly changed directions when the elected and appointed officials started examining the central argument involved in the citizen’s ethics complaint. The town attorney informed the board that he’d researched the conflict of interest matter and there’s case law that supports both sides of the argument. He also mentioned that he’d researched Commissioner Jablonski’s votes on allocations directly for the Alliance and was unable to find instances where she’d voted to appropriate revenue for the nonprofit. At one point, while the attorney was beginning to outline his opinion on the validity of the argument, Commissioner Piner asked him to speak up. He then wondered why it was never an issue when former Mayor Crouse voted on the budgets. “It’s surprising that it has come up as an issue now,” the Commissioner Piner remarked. After some back and forth about why it’s an issue now, someone pointed out that Jim Crouse had never served as the Alliance Director and Main Street Manager while he was mayor.
It is important for Elkton to develop some basic guidelines so that these matters are routinely handled in the future, as these continuing public discussions show. Under the current circumstances the citizen has been forced to ask whether the town has received his letter and is working on it at public meetings. That airing of this subject in public continued tonight as the officials considered the argument. We were informed by the administration that these matters are handed off to the Ethics for investigation as the commissioners and the administrative officials aren’t involved in the complaint. Whatever the case, surely the town wants these things handled more smoothly in the future.