By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun
8:20 PM EDT, August 27, 2013
The Baltimore County Ethics Commission said Tuesday it will not file a complaint against a Dundalk councilman who for years did not disclose his outside employment — including a stint at a company that did business with the county schools — saying that he has corrected the omissions.
Councilman John Olszewski Sr., a Democrat, filed amended financial disclosure forms dating to 2009 after the omissions were reported by news organizations this year.
Assistant County Attorney Susan Dubin, the commission's lawyer, said county law gives a public official 15 days to remedy or "cure" a situation in which an alleged violation of ethics rules has occurred. If the official does so, the commission must dismiss the complaint.
By filing amended reports, Dubin said Tuesday, Olszewski "cured it before a complaint was filed."
The watchdog group Common Cause Maryland said the decision was disappointing, given the number of years Olszewski failed to report his outside jobs.
"It gives the green light for other elected officials to turn a blind eye or forget" to properly file disclosure forms, said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause.
Olszewski's employment in the private sector included work in 2010 with D&M Painting & Drywall Inc., which was awarded a $3.1 million contract in 2011 for the new Dundalk and Sollers Point Technical high schools in Olszewski's district. He most recently has worked for Mason & Son LLC, a contractor in Sparrows Point.
The County Council does not vote on individual school contracts but approves the overall county budget. The county attorney has said Olszewski's work at D&M would not have forced him to recuse himself from voting on the budget.
The councilman worked at the port of Baltimore for more than two decades until 2010. He did not report that employment on his forms dating to 2006, the oldest disclosure forms the county law office keeps available.
Olszewski, who was first elected in 1998, said Tuesday that the commission's decision "speaks for itself." He declined to comment further.
He previously called his failure to disclose the jobs "a mistake on my part."
Dubin said the commission reached its decision after hours of discussions behind closed doors in June. No one filed a complaint against the councilman, she said.
Bevan-Dangel said Olszewski's filing of amended forms "doesn't undo the potential damage of the lack of transparency" caused by not accurately completing the disclosure forms. The forms are required by law and enable the public to examine potential conflicts of interest.
"It doesn't help the public confidence," she said.
Benjamin L. Polakoff, the ethics panel's chairman, said members determined that "there was no outstanding violation at the time it was brought to the commission's attention" because Olszewski had already corrected his forms.
"Perhaps people have opinions on whether or not the code should read that way, but that's the way it reads today," he said.
The commission's five members are appointed by the county executive.
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