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As Long as We Remember...

February 13, 2007

The Devil In The Details

Farrell Keough

I am in Florida - it is probably raining, but I can only hope the cold streak is still holding there in Frederick. I mean, what good is it to pay for a trip to a warmer place, then come home to find you cannot lord it over your friends, family, and loved ones? Sheesh!

I am here for some very important personal growth - playing golf with my buddies! Since I am the worst of the group, I will be given the wonderful gift of character building that only true friends can give - "Geez, Farrell, you are two steps below a tree in your sports abilities!" Good times, good times.

Okay, I am not actually in Florida right now. I am typing in my "hole," as my wife is wont to call my home office. "Your hole smells like #$%%" is a common term of endearment she uses to refer to my home office - at least I think it is a term of endearment. But I digress.

To the point. I have been fortunate to be involved in a very robust conversation on the "Ethics Bill" forwarded by the Board of County Commissioners to Annapolis. It is my understanding that this bill did not pass delegation scrutiny, but alterations are taking place and will be added.

First, from my limited understanding, the bill is not the only thing that is in a state of flux. It was "mentioned" by one of the delegates that since Frederick County currently has no actual application process for the "Comprehensive Plan" alterations/updates, then how can this plan be enforced? It is sort of like having a cable company that offers a specific set of channels, and then later changes those selections without notice - oh, wait, that already exists. Bad example.

Suffice to say, it is viewed that government cannot have a set of rules/regulations that can be changed by the whims of politics, but the Regional/Comprehensive Plan has no "formal" process for such change. Kind of good insight.

It was also noted by this delegate that the Comprehensive and Region Planning process(es) were taking far too long. This unfairly penalizes an applicant due to the extended time frame. It is a fact of nature that all "developers" are inherently evil, so this delay should not bother anyone.

But, one of the downsides of government is equal treatment under the law. For instance, if the Internal Revenue Service decided not to return your refund so they could gain the interest, that would be unfair treatment; but they can extort payment throughout the year and deprive you of income you could use to pay bills or make interest. Oh, wait, that does not prove the point.

Suffice to say, we all are supposed to receive equal treatment under the law; evil or not.

Consider this. If the Comprehensive and Regional Plans are considered null and void due to these factors, than this Ethics Bill becomes moot - as pointed out by yet another delegate. Since this would pretty much end my editorial, we will work under the assumption that this scenario does not take place.

Okay, the Ethics Bill passes with amendments. Basically, any "applicant" (evil developer), or "aggrieved party" (poor unsuspecting claimant), or maybe some hardened group that simply does not want any development, beneficial or not, to take place, (but that would never happen)) cannot donate to a commissioner once the application is before the county commissioners.

Not a bad idea, in principal. But what if the pending application is not settled before an election? Do both parties have to sit on their haunches and simply wait and hope their person gets elected? Do they forgo their "rights" as citizens to give to the candidate of their choice? I dunno - these minor intricacies (Constitutional Rights and the such) have to be worked out.

The second factor of this Ethics Bill is that an "applicant" or "aggrieved party" can talk to a candidate for commissioner while this case is before the commission. This is termed "ex parte" 1 communications and must be disclosed. Don't worry, I did not know what "ex parte" meant either.

A quick search of the Internet informed that it is a French word roughly translating as "non-patriotic" - I think it was one of those something-pedia sites. It sounds like encyclopedia, so it must be correct! I, for one, am all in favor of disclosing those "non-patriotic" participants - maybe even setting up internment camps for them or putting stocks in downtown Frederick.

It has yet to be determined if this disclosure requirement is only applicable to the commissioner or the parties who spoke with the commissioner. Since it is a possible $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail, one would hope they work out that glitch soon.

Speaking of glitches, the original Ethics Bill omitted one rather important point. If an interested party had an attorney, (and frankly, these days, who doesn't? - I think I have three or four, don't you?) the attorney can donate and have a discussion that does not need to be reported. "Rut roh Shaggy." Fortunately, one of the bloggers had the where-withal to recognize this glaring omission and it "may" be rectified in the amended bill.

The bill is under amendment by both Commissioner John L. "Lennie" Thompson, (I think he is lawyer, right?) and Del. Galen R. Clagett. With such a prestigious ethical background, we can feel assured that "The Man in White" will surely make this bill one which protects our interest as citizens and not something to be used for election year fodder to disparage other candidates.

For instance, no one would use such a bill to make a statement like: "Commissioner (Kai) Hagen, known for carrying on conversations with TheTentacle shills like Farrell Keough, (note: blog posting February 7th, 2007 - has suspect motives and should not be re-elected. Anyone cavorting with an individual like Mr. Keough obviously has ulterior motives. The suggestion that Commissioner Hagen was simply being amiable is dubious at best."

Of course, no one would play politics like this.

1 ex parte - Latin: By or for one party or side. In general, this refers to one party meeting with a judge or representative exclusively. In other words, the "aggrieved party" meeting with a Commissioner without the "applicant" present.

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