The members of Baltimore's ethics board wrote an email to Councilman James Kraft Friday chastising him for comments made in The Sun and the City Paper regarding a dispute between the board and members of the council over a piece of ethics leglsiation.
At issue is legislation — sought by Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young — that would loosen conflict-of-interest restrictions that have sometimes prevented City Council members from voting on bills. The legislation has been approved by the council, and it is expected to become law without the mayor's signature.
The bill would lift some ethics restrictions to allow Young to vote on matters involving city agencies where his family members work. Young has several relatives who hold relatively low-level positions in city government, but prevent him from voting on matters such as increases to water and sewage rates. The bill is vehemently opposed by the city's ethics board, which calls it "dangerous" and asked Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in a letter to veto it.
The letter accused the council of slipping in an amendment to broaden the scope of the bill in a "stealth-like" manner.
Councilman James B. Kraft, whose committee heard testimony on the bill, said he was offended by the ethics board's letter.
"They weren't even present at the hearing on the bill," he told The Sun. "The letter was so insulting. They've taken this self-righteous stance and they didn't even bother to testify or come to the hearing."
Kraft told the City Paper: "She didn’t even come to the hearing — and we get this nasty letter from her," he says. "A very indignant and insulting letter ... when you have yet to come to the committee and explain any of it."
After reading these comments, the ethics board took issue and sent off the following letter. Below is a copy of the email send by ethics board member Dawna Cobb:
Dear Councilman Kraft: I write on behalf of the Ethics Board to challenge statements attributed to you in recent articles in the Baltimore Sun and City Paper asserting that the Ethics Board members did not attend a hearing on the Board's bill that proposed changes to the Ethics Law as it relates to conflict of interest issues for City employees. On Tuesday December 11, 2012, several members of the Board attended the committee hearing on this bill. We remained through a long hearing on another bill so that we would be present when the Board's bill came up for discussion. When it did, not a single objection or issue was raised by any member of the committee. Moreover, nothing said during that hearing even hinted that there were concerns about the bill or that it would be amended. Not one City Council member contacted any member of the Board or its staff to discuss concerns about the bill or to advise that an amendment would be proposed at the December 18 voting session -- a session the Ethics Board members would have attended had we known about the amendment. We hope that in the future, statements to the media by you and other elected officials regarding matters of such profound consequence as the aforementioned proposed changes to the City’s Ethics Law will be accurate in all respects.
The Baltimore City Ethics Board