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Carroll County commissioners approve updated ethics rules on financial disclosures and gifts

Baltimore Sun 11/11/2022 Sherry Greenfield, Baltimore Sun

The Board of Carroll County Commissioners unanimously approved Thursday new provisions in the county’s ethics ordinance to reflect changes in state law regarding gifts and financial disclosures.

Commissioners have been discussing since September state law measures enacted by the Maryland General Assembly in 2021 that changed ethics law requirements for local governments.

“I know it seems like we’ve been talking about this for a long time,” County Attorney Tim Burke said. “I’m suppose to certify to the state’s ethics commission that our ethics ordinance is in full compliance with the state ethics ordinance.

“In order to do that we need to amend our current ordinance to reflect state law changes that were made in 2021.”

New conflict of interest provisions require that gifts from officials with the Maryland Association of Counties or the Maryland Municipal League be treated the same as gifts from other lobbying groups.

Commissioners and government officials must disclose gifts in excess of $20 or a series of several gifts totaling $100 or more from MML, MACo, and lobbying groups.

The new provisions also prohibit the disclosure of confidential information by former officials and county government employees.

Another amendment prohibits an official from retaliating against an individual for reporting or participating in an investigation of a potential violation of local ethics law.

Further, commissioners will be required to disclose any personal or business relationship with the University of Maryland Medical System, with state or local government in Maryland and with a quasi-governmental entity of the state or local government.

Another provision requires disclosure of a business an employee owns or does business with. The financial disclosure form must also include any other names the business is trading under or doing business with.

Finally, the new ethic laws expand the types of financial disclosure of a business entity in which the individual holds a 10% interest or greater.

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