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As Long as We Remember...

August 16, 2010

Ethics, conflicts and objectivity, oh my…

Shawn Burns

Nationally, unemployment is hovering around 9.6%. In Maryland we’re looking at 7.4%. And here in Frederick County they say we are around 6.5%. We are lucky. We’ve fared better than most, but there are a few things to consider.


Because of our proximity to Washington, we have a high number of able bodied people who work for the government. I’ve seen estimates that say upwards of 20% of us work in local, state or federal government agencies. And we all know, once you get in with a government job, you’ll never be fired or laid off.


Also, unemployment figures only count people who are out of work and actively looking for a new job. This means that if you’ve lost your job and for whatever reason you’re just sitting at home waiting, watching Judge Judy, well, you aren’t counted in unemployment statistics.


Because of the way unemployment is calculated, the reality is that here in Frederick County and across the country, a lot more people are out of work than are reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


And that brings me to Commissioner Kai Hagan. Has anyone heard him say anything regarding unemployment and job creation in Frederick County in the last few months? I haven’t.


Mr. Hagen doesn’t care about unemployed people in Frederick County. That’s why he won’t address the issue. And he won’t address the jobs issue because he has no ideas, vision or plan for addressing the issue.


The only thing Mr. Hagen seems capable of processing in his head are thoughts about trash, recycling and waste-to-energy plants. This week he was whining about the appointment of Daniel Locke to the county's solid waste committee.


I want to get right to the good stuff. Here’s what Mr. Hagen had to say as reported in The Frederick News-Post last week about the appointment of Mr. Locke:


"I don't have a problem with the fact that he has an opinion or even that his personal opinion would be to support the incinerator," Mr. Hagen said. "My problem is he is an active member of a board of an organization that does have a conflict of interest."


Mr. Hagen said Mr. Locke's involvement with the authority will prevent him from giving objective advice to the commissioners.


I read and re-read Mr. Hagen’s comments and began to wonder if he even realizes the hypocrisy of his statements.


Mr. Hagen is a well-known active supporter of Friends of Frederick County. What about his very own conflict of interest? I believe Mr. Hagen’s involvement with Friends of Frederick and/or Friends of Frederick County prevents him from making objective decisions and votes regarding land use here.


Mr. Hagen has continually pushed an agenda of a group he is involved with regardless of the needs and beliefs of the majority of county residents.


We would be foolish to think that Mr. Hagen hasn’t used his position as a county commissioner to feed information to Friends of Frederick County to help it with its agenda. Sounds like a big time conflict to me.


Mr. Hagen undoubtedly has passed along information and has told his “friends” when to show up at meeting and what to say when there is time for public comment. Again, another conflict of interest.


When Mr. Hagen objects to land-use issues that arise, or to annexation requests, is he doing it as a county commissioner or as a “friend” of Frederick County? Sure seems like a conflict to me.


Mr. Hagen himself opened this can of worms with his “conflict of interest” comments last week.


Mr. Hagen is an active and open supporter of Friends of Frederick County. This group is vocal and outspoken against basically any kind of development. Therefore, every vote cast by Mr. Hagen on any land use issues should be questioned.


If Mr. Hagen is so ethically superior than the rest of us, why did he not recuse himself from any agenda items that involved land use issues that Friends of Frederick – or Friends of Frederick County – opposed?


Mr. Hagen’s refusal to take the ethical high road may yet prove to be costly for the county, because any property owner who came before the commissioners may have a strong argument that Mr. Hagen’s involvement in their agenda item may amount to a huge conflict of interest and could quite possibly involve ethics violations.


My problem is that Mr. Hagen is an active member of an organization that does have a conflict of interest with many property owners who come before the commissioners.


Apparently ethics, objectivity and conflicts of interest only matter when it comes to people Mr. Hagen disagrees with. They don’t apply to him and his “friends.”



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