Balto. Co. Councilman Works for State in Apparent Violation

… Oliver has worked for Dept. of Business and Economic Development since February …

By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun

8:21 PM EDT, October 20, 2011

Baltimore County Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver has been working for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, an apparent violation of a county charter rule that bars council members from working for the state.

Oliver, a Randallstown Democrat, has worked since Feb. 16 as a finance specialist at the department, a spokeswoman for the agency confirmed.

The county charter says that “no person shall qualify or serve as a member of the county council while he holds any other office or employment for profit of or under the state or county.”

County Attorney Mike Field and State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger both said they have no authority to enforce the law, however, and Field was not aware of any penalty in the county code. A County Council lawyer could not be reached late Thursday.

Republican Councilman David Marks said that he would “withhold judgment until I talk to Councilman Oliver and until I hear from the legal counsel for the County Council” — but added that his own experience taught him that the charter “is pretty clear that County Council members cannot receive compensation in any way for services” to the state.

Marks said that earlier this year, he was offered a contract job teaching an introductory political science course at Towson University. He said he asked Tom Peddicord, the council’s secretary and legal counsel, for an opinion.

“He said it was very clearly a state-funded position, so I walked away from it,” Marks said. “He told me that it was plain as day that I could not be employed by Towson University.”

Oliver said he was busy and could not talk when reached Thursday afternoon at the state agency. He could not be reached for comment later.

Oliver’s employment with the state was first reported Wednesday by

Karen Glenn Hood, a spokeswoman for the state agency, said Oliver’s salary is about $62,700.

“He is an employee of the state of Maryland,” she said. “His paychecks come from the state of Maryland.”

As a contractual employee, Oliver does not receive benefits such as health insurance or vacation time, Glenn Hood said.

Field declined to comment on Oliver’s situation, saying that at first glance, the matter isn’t under his office’s authority.

“I don’t see my office as having any investigating authority,” Field said. “The charter itself doesn’t contain any enforcement provisions.”

And because the charter isn’t criminal law, Shellenberger also said he couldn’t look into it.

“To the best of my knowledge, what is alleged in the Oliver case regarding the county charter does not amount to a crime, and therefore I don’t have the power to investigate,” he said.

In 2008, county voters rejected a referendum to change the charter so that council members could work for the state. At the time, Oliver was among five members of the seven-member council to support the change.

Council Chairman John Olszewski Sr. also had supported revising the charter, saying that people who work in public jobs shouldn’t have to quit if they get elected to the council.

But “it went to the voters, and the voters said, ‘No, keep it how it is,'” Olszewski said Thursday. “I think that we should be following those rules.”

Oliver was first elected in 2002. In 2009, he pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds.

Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun

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