Oliver Seeks To Change Ethics Law

… Legislation passed in August has been seen as targeting two specific people …

By Bryan P. Sears | Email the author | 7:23am

An ethics law seen by some as targeting two specific individuals could be amended under a bill sponsored by County Councilman Ken Oliver.

Oliver, a Democrat who represents the council’s 4th District, was the lone dissenting vote when the bill that barred people convicted of certain crimes from doing business with the county, including representing a union in negotiations, lobbying or being awarded a county contract.

Oliver’s bill would make the recently-enacted law apply only to people convicted of the listed crimes after the legislation went into effect.

“My bill amends the law to make it prospective,” said Oliver, who was the only speaker on the measure.

Currently, anyone convicted of bribery and attempted bribery, fraud, embezzlement, theft, forgery, falsification or destruction of records, receiving stolen property, antitrust violations, or any criminal offense related to a public contract is forbidden from negotiating union contracts, lobbying or contracting with the county.

The law, passed in August, was an expanded version of a withdrawn measure sponsored by Councilman Vince Gardina, a 5th District Democrat, who had proposed a similar law two months earlier that targeted only lobbyists.

Many believed the June bill specifically targeted Annapolis lobbyist Bruce Bereano, who represented area tanning salon owners and successfully defeated bills sponsored by Gardina that would have restricted the use of tanning beds by teens.

Bereano would have been barred from future lobbying under Gardina’s initial effort because of 1995 federal mail fraud convictions.

Bereano argued that the bill was unconstitutional and should not apply retroactively. Ultimately, Gardina withdrew the bill after it became clear there was little initial support. The councilman vowed to re-tool the bill and bring it back.

Gardina expanded the bill to union leaders and contractors. The restrictions on lobbyists applied only to future cases while restrictions on union leaders and contractors would apply to any past or future conviction.

A late amendment sponsored by Councilman Sam Moxley changed the bill to make it apply to any past conviction.

Oliver and Republican Bryan McIntire criticized the law in August for targeting both Bereano and Michael Day, president of the Baltimore County Professional Fire Fighters Association.

Day pleaded guilty in 1995 to misdemeanor counts of conspiracy and violating the state’s pyramid scheme laws after being involved in an investment scheme called “Friends Helping Friends.”

Day received about $42,000 from the scheme but said that he lost about one-third to re-investing in the pyramid scheme. Fines related to the conviction wiped out the rest, he said.

Day also complained in August that the bill was unfair and illegal because it applied retroactively. Both he and Bereano threatened legal action but neither so far has filed suit.

County Executive Jim Smith ultimately allowed the bill to become law without his signature.

Day attended Tuesday’s hearing but did not speak on the bill. 

Oliver’s bill is scheduled for a vote during the council’s legislative session on Monday.

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