By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun
11:18 AM EDT, May 19, 2013
A Baltimore County councilman did not disclose his outside employment over the past several years, including his work with a painting and drywall company that has a $3.1 million contract at a new high school being built in his district.
Councilman John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat, only recently revealed in required disclosure forms that he has employment outside his elected post, filing amended reports going back to 2009.
Council members and other county officials must report any outside jobs on annual reports so that the public can examine whether they have conflicts of interest.
The councilman has worked since 2010 for Mason & Son LLC, a contractor in Sparrows Point, according to the newly filed forms. In 2010, he also worked for D&M Painting & Drywall Inc., which was awarded a $3.1 million contract the following year for the new Dundalk and Sollers Point Technical high schools.
He also worked for APS East Coast Inc. at the Port of Baltimore in 2009 and 2010, according to his corrected financial reports.
The councilman called the omissions "an oversight."
"It was a mistake on my part," he said, adding that he has filed the corrected forms.
Olszewski, who has been in office nearly 15 years, filed the amended reports this month after the website Patch.com asked him why he didn't report his current job on this year's disclosure form.
He described himself as "a jack of all trades" at Mason & Son, where his duties include answering the phones, running errands and "trying to drum up business."
D&M was the lowest of three bidders on the high school contract, which provided for "metal framing systems, gypsum board, acoustical ceilings and wall panels, building insulation, sealants," and other work at the new building, according to school system documents.
The bid was submitted in December 2010 and the contract awarded the following April. The other two companies' bids were for $3.8 million and $3.9 million.
Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause Maryland, called Olszewski's omissions "very troubling."
"These reports are critical for public trust and for ensuring that decision makers are listening first to the interests of constituents and not the voices of special interests," she said, adding that Olszewski could have been making budget decisions that affect his employer. "The ethics board needs to ask itself what's going on here."
The County Council does not vote on individual contracts for work at county schools, but it approves overall school spending as part of the county's annual budget. Olszewski said he had asked County Attorney Mike Field whether he needed to recuse himself.
Field said he does not see the councilman voting on the budget as a conflict of interest because the council doesn't vote on individual school contracts, and the D&M contract is "a minuscule part of the budget."
The budget "is the biggest thing we do all year, and all council members should be voting on the budget," Field said. "And we can't function without them doing it." Field said he advised Olszewski to file amended reports dating to 2009 because his office is required to hold ethics forms for four years.
Bevan-Dangel also mentioned that Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican, was late to disclose a three-month job teaching political science at Loyola University last September through December. Although Marks disclosed the job on the financial report he filed this year, he should have filed documents within a month of taking the job, under county law.
Bevan-Dangel questioned whether there's an "endemic problem" of lax county oversight on ethics requirements.
Marks said he notified Field before accepting the teaching position to ensure that there was no conflict of interest. Several weeks ago, he said, he wrote to the county ethics commission to clarify that he had held the teaching position last year.
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