Councilmen David Marks and John Olszewski Sr. will not face ethics violations related to their failure to properly disclose their outside jobs.
Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, said the failure to file complaints against either councilman causes a further erosion of public trust.
Sue Dubin, counsel to the Baltimore County Ethics Commission, said the five-member commission decided against filing a complaint because both Marks and Olszewski filed amended forms prior to the commission meeting in June.
“In this case, they cured it prior to there being a complaint issued by the commission,” Dubin said.
Bevan-Dangel said the decision sends a bad message to both the public and elected officials.
“The message to elected officials here is that the commission is not going to hold you accountable,” Bevan-Dangel said. “The message to the public is that [the commission] is going to let ethical standards slide.”
Dubin defended the decision and the law allowing public officials to correct mistakes without penalty saying that county law “is based on state ethics laws.”
Bevan-Dangel said state law does not preclude counties from having stricter ethics codes.
“The state law should be the floor, the minimum standard, not the ceiling,” Bevan-Dangel said.
“The commission is saying that elected officials get a free pass,” Bevan-Dangel said. “Instead of holding elected officials to a higher standard than the public, they are being held to a lesser standard.”
Both cases came to the attention of the councilmembers and the ethics commission after published reports by Patch showed that both Marks and Olszewski had failed to disclose jobs held in 2012.
In April, Patch reported that Marks held a teaching job at Loyola University between September and December of 2012. The job did not violate county laws but Marks failed to disclose the job in an amended report within 30 days as legally required.
Marks at the time called the issue "an oversight" and did disclose the job on forms filed in April that covered the 2012 calendar year.
In May, Patch reported that Olszewski failed for several years to report his job with Mason and Sons Contracting. Olszewski also called the issue "an oversight" and told Patch he would file an amended report if he was in violation of the law. A few days after that interview, Olszewski told Patch he had indeed filed an amended report covering the 2012 calendar year.
Following the reports by Patch, the Baltimore Sun reported that Olszewski had failed to disclose his job for several additional years.
Both Marks and Olszewski voted for a major revision of county ethics laws in 2011 that contained the disclosure requirements.
The failure to fully disclose the jobs could leave both men open to possible fines of $2 per day up to $250 for filing incomplete reports.
Willful and false filings can carry a criminal penalty under law. Failure to file or report information also can carry a civil fine of up to $1,000 in addition to any assessed late fees.
County ethics law gives members a 15-day grace period in which to correct any alleged violations. In the case of Marks and Olszewski, both councilmen filed amended financial disclosure forms before the commission could meet and determine if a violation was met.
Typically the commission does not discuss individual cases unless it decides to file a formal complain.
The commission met on June 5 to discuss issues related to both councilman’s financial disclosure statements. At the time, Dubin and Elaine Katz, the executive director of the commission, said that the commission could not discuss the matters publicly until the board decided to file a complaint or take the matter to the county state’s attorney. Neither had happened at that time, according to both women.
But in an interview Wednesday, Dubin said the commission did in fact make its decision not to pursue a complaint at the meeting two months ago.
Dubin said she was now speaking publicly about the cases because both Marks and Olszewski waived their right to confidentiality.