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MoCo Employee Admits To Lapses In Ethics; Must Pay $5K Fine

Patch logo Patch 7/6/2020 Alessia Grunberger
Montgomery County Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine admits to violating county ethics law. © Shutterstock Montgomery County Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine admits to violating county ethics law.

ROCKVILLE, MD — Montgomery County Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine has agreed to pay a $5,000 fine in connection to a probe which found he violated county ethics law.

The ethics probe stems from his dealings with two private companies prior to his service with the county in 2018, according to a report by the county's Ethics Commission.

Shortly before becoming the county's chief administrative officer, Kleine was Baltimore City's budget director. At the time, he worked with two contractors, Balancing Act and Clear Impact LLC.

Balancing Act offers accounting services and bookkeeping systems, while Clear Impact provides performance management training and software.

After leaving his job in Baltimore City, Kleine created a company called Andrew Kleine Consulting LLC and wrote a book titled "City on the Line." According to the Ethics Commission's report, his company entered into formal contracts with Balancing Act and an "informal, mutually beneficial arrangement" with Clear Impact.

Business Dealing with Balancing Act

Kleine entered two contracts with Balancing Act in the spring of 2018 for consulting services, the report reveals. Balancing Act also sponsored an event in September of that year promoting Kleine's book, "City on the Line."

The contracts with Balancing Act were terminated in the winter of 2019. Neither the company nor Kleine received any income from the contracts, the report states.

In late 2018, newly elected County Executive Marc Elrich appointed Kleine chief administrative officer. It's the most powerful non-elected government position in the county.

In their report, the Ethics Commission said Kleine helped establish a relationship between the county and Balancing Act, which led to a "one-year contract, in the amount of $9,880, for Balancing Act's software."

"Mr. Kleine understands that the ethics law prohibits him from participating in any matter with a business that he has a contract with, if the contract could reasonably result in a conflict between private interests and public duties," the report states. "Although Mr. Kleine never received any funds from Balancing Act, Mr. Kleine acknowledges that he violated this provision of the Ethics Law."

According to the report, in May of 2019, Kleine spent about an hour at the Government Financial Officers' Association meeting signing copies of his book that had been purchased by Balancing Act.

"While royalties on these books were minimal ($42), and his purpose for attending the conference was to recruit for Montgomery County's vacant Director of Finance position, Mr. Kleine now recognizes that his promotion of his book at the Balancing Act table mixed his private book promotional activity with his county service, which was a misuse of the prestige of office," the report read.

Business Dealings with Clear Impact

On July 1, 2018, Clear Impact paid Kleine $5,000 toward book promotion expenses, the Ethics Commission said. In exchange, Clear Impact's logo was printed on the back cover of the book.

Prior to becoming chief administrative officer, Kleine facilitated arrangements between Clear Impact and the county for transition services.

"At Mr. Kleine's request, the Leggett Administration engaged Clear Impact in a $10,000 non-competitive contract to facilitate the work of the Elrich Transition Team, starting the day after the election. Mr. Kleine saw this as necessary to complete the transition work in less than a month," the report read.

In May of 2019, Montgomery County entered into a contract for up to $99,000 with the company. At the time, Kleine was a county employee.

"Mr. Kleine had no formal contractural relationship with Clear Impact, but acknowledges that because of Clear Impact's support of his book, any activities that he was involved in that related to the county's contracting with Clear Impact, including his promotion of county activities that were likely to result in engagement of Clear Impact, was a potential conflict of interest ... or a potential misuse of prestige of office," the report states.

Punishment

In addition to paying a $5,000 fine, Kleine:

  • Cannot engage in any outside employment activities or promote his book to county employees
  • Cannot be involved with any matters involving Balancing Act or Clear Impact without first obtaining advice or a waiver from the Ethics Commission
  • Direct the Chief Procurement Officer to ensure that the county doesn't purchase additional copies of his book

Click here to read the Ethics Commission's report.

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