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Ethics Board Finds Some Support But Not Money

City Council hears a presentation on the Ethics Board but takes no immediate action on a resolution to pay for legal expenses.

 

As a Dec. 8 court hearing approaches, the Ocean City Ethics Board still has no money to pay for its legal representation in litigation filed as a result of one of its rulings.

A presentation by Ethics Board Chairman Stanley Pszczolkowski at Tuesday's City Council meeting answered some questions, but Council took no action on a resolution that would transfer $22,000 to pay for Ethics Board legal expenses.

City Council voted to table the resolution at a Nov. 10 meeting and questioned whether the city can afford to maintain the board. Council took no further action on the resolution after hearing the presentation on Nov. 29.

Ocean City Beach Patrol Operations Director Tom Mullineaux is appealing an Ethics Board finding of two alleged ethics violations related to changing scores on lifeguard requalification tests. Mullineaux was fined $100 for each violation. An Administrative Law judge is scheduled to hear the appeal on Dec. 8, Pszczolkowski said.

"We do need an attorney immediately," he said.

Pszczolkowski characterized the appeal as the result of a particularly complex complaint that started with "six or seven inches of paper" alleging 10 separate ethics violations by Mullineaux and former Ocean City Fire Chief Joseph Foglio. The complaints were filed by former Ocean City Beach Patrol member Mike Hamilton.

The Ethics Board found no violations by Foglio, and Hamilton appealed that decision. It found two violations against Mullineaux, who also appealed.

Hamilton dropped his appeal as part of a recent . Mullineaux's appeal continues.

Pszczolkowski said the board has spent only $1,500 in the more than four years of its existence (some for training seminars for board members and some for stenography). He said Ethics Board decisions have been upheld without cost to the city by the state's Local Finance Board in a number of other appeals.

Councilman Scott Ping asked if it's worth $22,000 in legal fees to collect $200 in fines.

"Where are the limits?" he asked. "What can we afford?"

But he acknowledged that the city should pay the expenses in the short term.

"We have to do what we have to do as far as putting that money forward," he said.

In public comments, attorney Ed Price recalled an old ad slogan — "You can pay me now or you can pay me later" — and said, "The Ethics Board is like the oil filter of our government."

He suggested a vigilant Ethics Board could be funded for several years with savings from the improper billings it could prevent.

"Do not be short-sighted and vote to abolish this board," he said.

Ocean City resident and recent Third Ward candidate Steve Fenichel also spoke in favor of retaining the Ethics Board.

"What price do we put in restoring a sense of confidence among our citizens?" he asked.

Even Hamilton spoke in favor of the Ethics Board. He told City Council that trying to address his compaints through the city's Personnel Department was unsatisfactory and that trying to do so through a state Ethics Board would be a long process.

JAronson December 02, 2011 at 09:01 PM
Eric - I don't speak for sam but Ive been following his comments and think you misinterpret what he has said. He does not say that the state agency is sufficient, just that it is one of many ways besides the local board that ethical conduct is overseen. Also - he is not making a cost effectiveness case based just on monetary costs and benefits but on all of the relevant costs and benefits. I interpret his evaluation as being done in the context of the board's goal (to discourage/reduce unethical conduct), not how much money is produced by the board. He just mentions that as one of the costs. But even in that narrow context, the board comes out on the short end because it costs many thousands and brings no monetary return. Re-read sam's first comment from yesterday. Sam- correct me if I got it wrong. Jason
Eric Sauder December 02, 2011 at 10:38 PM
OK I'll re-read it. I just want to say that given the culture of government in this town and what appears to me to be apathy or resignation on the part of the population, that it isn't going to be easy to change that culture. The Ethics Board may well struggle to discourage/reduce unethical conduct. That will only change when the citizens of this town stand up and say "not on my watch". The rest of what you stated is confusing to me. In terms of cost / benefit I can't apply monetary terms to it. We're talking ethics in government here, not a bottom line. Thanks for the input. If I missed the point I missed the point.
Parker Miller December 06, 2011 at 02:28 PM
So much for transparency with the new administration. First, the $50K paid to Hamilton was not part of his complaint to the Ethics Board. It was a separate court action. I've read his complaint which, obviously, most of the OC citizens and all of council have not. His complaint was mostly about favortism shown to Foglio's and/or Millineaux's friends and relatives. Sworn testimony showed that certain individuals either did not take the mandatory tests or their times were manually improved in violation of city regulations and those of the U.S. Lifegurad Assoc. which could place the city in a very bad liability position if a death or serious injury resulted. More age discrimination suits are bound to follow from other "mature" lifeguards, and $50K and a gag order have been set as the benchmark for settlement. The estimated $22K needed by the Ethics Board will be insignificant compared to the backroom, out of court, settlements. And the beat goes on. Nothing will change, and favortism, privledge, and unethical conduct will continue. Even after Millineaux's actions and the fire department overtime fiasco became known, has the city taken any punitive action against anyone?
Eric Sauder December 06, 2011 at 03:57 PM
Thank you Parker.
Michael Hamilton June 13, 2012 at 03:19 AM
At age 65, I took the OCBP rookie test in in June of 2009 with 90 other candidates and for the second time( 1st in 1960 & hired) was successful and was offered a job by the city.(look it up Fred) I did not take the position for personal reasons, but a point was proven! Now that was two more times taking the OCBP rookie test than you Fred, right. How did you get your job with the Patrol? What is the true and complete Miller lifeguard history. Why did leave ?, was it the Wildwood Patrol? Too much pressure? The Ethics Board continues in Ocean City, thanks to the good people who spoke up for it and demanded that it be kept in place.Why don't you write all about that, Fred.

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