Index to Ethics Commission Opinions - 2002
Neither the Police Department nor Police Officers may permit the use by a private entity of photographs of police in uniform or of departmental vehicles for commercial purposes or for charitable fund raising activity. §3-104(a)
The Ethics Law does not apply to gifts given to the county government if the gift is given to further the county’s purposes and the beneficiaries are members of the public and not employees. Employees may accept gifts of food or beverages from controlled donors at trade shows or training sessions if the gifts are of nominal value to both the recipient and the donor. Employees may also accept discounts on personal purchases from controlled donors if the discount is offered to all county employees as part of a generalized marketing technique, and as long as employees are still required to pay legal and adequate consideration for those purchases. §3-104(a), §3-106(b) and (c)
A Senior Planner with the county may serve as an elected alderman in the City of Annapolis, but may not assist or represent the city in matters in which the county may have an adversarial or competitive interest with the city. This prohibition would prevent the employee from participating in legislative annexation issues as well as contractual matters that may result in litigation between the county and the city. §3-105(c)(1)
A Park Ranger may not accept rent subsidy payments from the neighbors of the park in order to continue living in county owned housing in the park. The proposed donors “have financial interests that may be substantially and materially affected, in a manner distinguishable from the public generally, by the performance or nonperformance of any official duty of the employee.” A county employee may not accept a private gain offered because of the employee’s title or position. The county may not accept the payments in lieu of the employee, because the county may only accept gifts that benefit the public and not employees. §3-104(a) and §3-106(b)
An incumbent running for re-election may use publicly available archival photographs in campaign literature providing that the photograph merely describes activities of the candidate and does not imply an endorsement of the candidacy. §3-104(a)
An employee of the Fire Department may continue to participate as an active member of a volunteer fire company, but may not continue to serve as the president of the Anne Arundel County Volunteer Firefighters Association. §3-105(b)(2) and (c)(1)
A Police Captain may not employ county Police Officers in a business where the Captain is one of two owners of the business. §3-104(a)
The Ethics Commission advises that the Legislative Counsel did not violate §3-104(a), §3105(c), or §3-109(a) of the Public Ethics Law by serving as a compensated expert witness for one of the parties in a case.
An employee may serve as an honorary committee chairperson for a foundation’s annual dinner in the employee’s personal capacity only and the employee may not use the title of the county position in any organizational literature. The employee’s name and current job title may be used in the program for the dinner by way of identification. §3-104(a)
A registered lobbyist on health care matters may be appointed to the county Commission on Disabilities as long as there are no state legislative matters of interest to the county upon which the appointee will be lobbying. §3-105(c)
An employee may teach classes in the same technical field for which the employee teaches classes for the county, since the secondary employer has no contracts with the county, is not subject to regulation by the county and is not in a competitive relationship with the county. The employee is subject to certain limitations outlined in the advisory opinion. §3-105, §3-104, §3-101
A luncheon donated by a controlled donor for several employees may not be accepted because the value of the luncheon, $640, creates the appearance of impropriety. §3-106(c)
Employees who notarize documents for customers of the county may not accept a fee for those services. They may accept fees for notary services performed outside of county business, even if the county paid for the notary expenses, subject to certain limitations set forth in the opinion. §3-104(a) and §3-105
A Council member who does business with a developer may not participate in legislative action on an amendment that will affect the developer’s interests. The Council member may be able to vote on the overall legislation if the particular amendment constitutes only a small portion of the overall bill. §3-102(a), (b)(2)(i), (ii)
The attorney to the Liquor Board is an employee of the county for purposes of the Ethics Law and may not engage in inconsistent employment by having an ownership interest in a bar located in the county. §1-101and §3-105
Employees may solicit other county employees to make a donation to the Special Olympics to celebrate Torch Day Run where the County Executive has declared this to be a government supported charitable fundraiser; county employees may not be required to participate in the event. §3-104(a)
The chairperson of the Personnel Board is not required to resign from the board while campaigning for election to the County Council but should consider resigning in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. The board routinely responds to disputes between union employees and the administration and council candidates seek union endorsements.
Employees may not solicit contributions from controlled donors to help defray expenses for a truck rodeo in which the employees will be participating. §3-106(a)
The Ethics Law permits employees to conduct a 50/50 raffle at a co-worker’s retirement party as long as participation is strictly voluntary. Employees should consult with the Office of Law and the State’s Attorney’s Office to make sure that other laws do not prohibit the activity. §3-106(a)
A County Council member with a relative in the firefighter’s union may not vote on a resolution to put a charter amendment supporting binding arbitration on the ballot at the next general election since the member’s relative has an interest in the outcome of the legislation. §3-102
The district commander and other police officers may accept an invitation to attend a “pre-opening” dinner from a restaurant in that district, as long as the value of the dinner is $25 or less per person. It appears that the invitation was also extended to businesses and people in the district as a means of introduction. §3-106(c)(1)
The members of the Minority Business Enterprise Committee are not subject to the Ethics Laws and are not bound by its provisions in the conduct of their business. §1-101(f)
Members of the Retirement Board may not accept conference expenses from the entity holding the conference, even if that entity is not a controlled donor, if the actual sponsors of the conference are controlled donors. §3-106(b)
An employee may bid on property to be auctioned at the county’s tax sale provided that the employee has no access to confidential information pertaining to those properties. §3-107
An employee of the Recreation and Parks Department may not contract to work for officiating organizations that have contracts with the department. §3-105(b)(1)
A member of the Disabilities Commission may serve, if elected, in the General Assembly but may not participate in disability issues in which the county may have an adversarial interest. §3-105(c)(1)
A member of the Disabilities Commission may represent clients in administrative hearings before the Department of Public Works under certain conditions described in the opinion. §3-105 (revised by letter dated October 20, 2003, based on newly amended Ethics Law, Bill 38-02, §5-104(a)(2).
Employees may not solicit project pictures, plans, or renderings from developers to hang in county offices for display, but they may accept them as gifts if they are offered. On the other hand, employees may invite developers to display project visuals on office walls as long as it is understood that ownership of the items will remain with the developers. §3-106(a)
A Council member with a relative in the Fire Department may vote on a resolution that would permit - but would not require - the next elected council to enact binding arbitration provisions for collective bargaining unit impasse procedures. §3-102(a) and (b)(2)(iv)
A council member who participates in legislative activity in violation of the Ethics Law may be subject to enforcement proceedings, if the member requested advice but acted without waiting for a response from the ethics commission.
A Council member with a relative in the Fire Department may not vote on a resolution that would require the next elected council to enact binding arbitration provisions for collective bargaining units. §3-102
A member of the Ethics Commission may not serve as an election judge because an election judge is a state government employee and the Anne Arundel County Charter, Article X, §1001(c)(3), prohibits Ethics Commission members from being employed by the state.
While the Anti-Hatch act precludes the county from restricting the employee’s political activities, it does not preclude the county from restricting the employee’s official duties in order to avoid conflicts of interest under the Ethics Law. §3-101
An employee may not teach a class at a university for compensation if the class is directly and immediately related to the employee’s official duties. §3-104(a)
A department head who is married to an employee of the department should advise the Ethics Commission if promotion, discipline, training, or assignment of the spouse requires or generally involves the participation of the department head. §3-101(a) and (c)
It is not a violation of the Ethics Law for a supervisor to evaluate the performances of employees who will receive pay for performance awards from the same limited fund of money as the supervisor.
Gifts of tickets to a circus offered by a controlled donor may not be accepted by county employees, even if they are of nominal value, since only elected officials and their representatives may accept free tickets to cultural events, in order to participate in a ceremony involving the office. §3-106(c)(5)
A dinner invitation to the home of a controlled donor may be accepted under most circumstances as a gift of nominal value. §3-106(c)(1)
The County Executive is required to disclose a rental agreement made between the executive’s campaign committee and an entity who will be affected by legislation initiated by the county executive. If the Executive asserts an ability to participate fairly, objectively, and in the public interest, and if the Ethics Commission agrees with this assertion based upon the facts of the disclosure, the Ethics Commission may authorize the County Executive to take official action, despite the apparent conflict of interest. §3-103 and §3-101
The Ethics Law would not prohibit a member of the Board of Appeals from serving on the Property Tax Assessment Board in this county, but the Constitution of Maryland may prohibit the dual offices, and the requestor should contact the Office of Law concerning the latter issue. §3-105
An employee may not use the county’s e-mail to solicit contributions to a charitable entity unless the solicitation has been approved by the County Executive as part of a county-wide fund raising effort. §3-104(a)
The county may accept a gift from a retailer with whom it does business, since the gift is given to all customers according to the same criteria. An employee may not accept this type of gift for the employee’s personal use unless its value is under $25. §3-106(c)
An incumbent elected official may not post a campaign sign on a county vehicle that is provided for the personal use of the elected official. §3-103(a)
An incumbent candidate may use archival photographs of uniformed firefighters if the photo commemorates a specific event and cannot reasonably be inferred to be an endorsement. §3-104(a)
An elected official may not accept free tickets to a cultural event from a controlled donor if the official will not be participating in a ceremony involving the office. §3-106(c)
A private entity may not employ uniformed police officers to provide security at an event where liquor will be sold. §3-105(b)(1)
The chairperson of the Liquor Board may not provide testimony as to the character of an applicant for a city liquor license. The chairperson may only provide factual evidence that is both relevant and unobtainable from other sources. §3-104(a)
A member of the Planning Advisory Board may be employed by the Tipton Airport, as long as the member refrains from participating in any matters involving the Tipton Airport that come before the PAB. §3-101(a)(2)(I)
A Legislative Assistant to a member of the County Council may continue to participate on the Republican Central Committee under rights granted to all government employees under the state’s Anti-Hatch act.
Members of the County Council may interview prospective and current members of the Board of Appeals prior to making appointments to the new board.
An employee may accept a gift of expenses to a conference where the donor of the expenses is not a controlled donor. Since the employee will be attending the conference as part of the employee’s official duties, there will be no prohibited private gain to the employee. §3-106(b) and §3-104(a)
An employee may serve on the fund raising committee of a private entity in the employee’s personal capacity only, and may not target controlled donors in the fund raising efforts. §3-104(a) and §3-106(b)