After county ethics hearing on employment disclosure, no complaint against councilman
Wednesday, 04 September 2013 15:23

Watchdog group says it is “disappointed” with board’s decision

by Ben Boehl

    The Baltimore County Ethics Commission will not file a complaint against 7th District County Councilman John Olszewski Sr.
    The ethics commission investigation began in May when allegations surfaced that Olszewski had failed to list his current employer on legally-required disclosure forms. It was later revealed that Olszewski’s former employer was awarded a contract for work on the new Dundalk High-Sollers Point Tech campus.
    D&M Painting & Drywall Inc., which employed Olszewski during 2010, received a contract for work on the school project with a bid of $3.1 million.
    According to the Baltimore Sun, the D&M bid was lower than those of the two other companies that bid $3.8 million and $3.9 million.
    Susan Dubin, an attorney for the county’s ethics commission, said that Olszewski was able to make the proper corrections that included his work history within the required 15-day timeframe after the discrepancy surfaced.
    “No complaint has been filed. It was determined that the councilman had amended the [documents],”  Dubin told to The Eagle.
    Olszewski was unavailable for comment.
    Jennifer Bevan-Dangel of the watchdog group Common Cause has been monitoring the Olszewski case and is unhappy with the ethic board’s decision.
    “We are disappointed,” Bevan-Dangel said. “It sets a bad precedent that they are not taking this seriously.”
    Bevan-Dangel was not expecting the commission to take drastic measures such as forcing Olszewski out of office, but noted that her group’s goal is to make sure the system “is not encouraging this type of behavior.”
    “There should have been some type of fine levied just to send a message to the other council members that they have to follow the standard procedures.”
    The ethics board is made up of members appointed by Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.    
    While some have suggested that there might be a conflict of interest since Olszewski endorsed Kamenetz in 2010, Bevan-Dangel said that most of the ethic board members in the state are appointed by county executives and/ or county councils.
    Bevan-Dangel explained that she wants the ethics commission to do what is right when they spot inappropriate behavior.
    Bevan-Dangel did not want to speculate as to how Olszewski’s actions might hurt him in next year’s election.
    “That is up to the voters. We don’t endorse candidates,” she noted.
    Republican Todd Crandell, who announced that will be seeking Olszewski’s seat in 2014, said that the councilman needs to explain in a sincere way about the situation, or his constituents will continue to doubt his trustworthiness and suitability to serve another term.
    “Despite the ethics commission’s finding on the initial failure of Mr. Olszewski to disclose an outside job, questions remain as to why the councilman has a job with a county contractor in the first place, and why what he called ‘an oversight’ occurred in each of the last four disclosure periods,” Crandell said in a statement to The Eagle.
    “County ethics code clearly states that public officials are prohibited from employment that gives even the appearance of a conflict of interest, so I think the community will continue to be disturbed by, and skeptical of, the councilman’s actions.”