QAC’s Revised Ethics Code - Queen Anne’s County has now met the State General Assembly’s requirement that all county and many municipalities’ Ethics Codes must have conflicts of interest and financial disclosure rules for elected officials (including elected School Board members) that are “equivalent to or exceed” the State’s requirements. Those requirements became law in 2010 and the State Ethics Commission was given the authority and responsibility to review and approve the necessary revisions required by the law.
The Queen Anne’s County’s Ethics Commission spent considerable time working with the State Ethics Commission to make changes that met these new standards. In November 2012, Commissioner Dunmyer introduced the State-approved revised Queen Anne’s County Ethics Ordinance (#12-23). There was no testimony at the required hearing on January 22, 2013, and on February 12, 2013, Ordinance 12-23 was passed unanimously. It will become law on March 30, 2013, 45 days after it was passed, at which time Ethics Matters will post it on our website, www.ethicsmattersinc.org. There is an uncorrected error in the new ordinance as posted on the County’s website (www.qac.org information>ordinances by year> CY2012 > 12-23), which we hope will be corrected when it officially becomes part of the County Code.
The new financial disclosure provisions require more detailed information from our elected officials. As a result, the Ethics Commission will be rewriting the financial disclosure forms for our County Commissioners. The Ethics Committee of the School Board will be responsible for updating their forms. QAC’s Sheriff, State’s Attorney and a number of other QAC officials are subject to the State’s Ethics Code, not the County’s, and already are required to complete the State’s more detailed financial disclosure.
The County’s existing conflicts of interest provisions were fairly close to the State’s provisions, so there were only a few changes necessary. The County’s conflicts of interest rules, with some exceptions, apply to all officials, whether elected or not, and to all County employees, as well as all Board and Commission members. Generally, these individuals are prohibited from participating in matters in which they, or a family member, have a financial interest that is distinguished from the general public’s. For example, even though a County official is affected by a vote that raises or lowers taxes, she or he can vote on it because it also affects the public at large.
Other News The County Commissioners appointed Steffan Sonneveldt to the Ethics Commission replacing Hal Wilson, who was not reappointed. Ethics Matters thanks Mr. Wilson for his constantly thoughtful and dedicated service to the Ethics Commission and the County. Mr. Sonneveldt, who lives on Kent Island, is a Senior Vice President, Operations, for Towne Park. The Ethics Commission reelected Bob Mueller as its chair. The other members of the Ethics Commission are Jody Schulz, Dick Smith, Robert Udoff, and Dale Anderson as alternate. In their first two years in office, the County Commissioners have appointed, in some instances by a 3-2 vote, the alternate and four of the five members of the Ethics Commission. Lynn Knight is continuing as counsel and Tina Miles as clerk.