I’m thankful for the recommendations and legislative work the citizen-led Ethics Reform Task Force, the League of Women Voters, County Executive Jan Gardner and the majority of the County Council accomplished for Frederick County. A blog post on Red Maryland (redmaryland.com/2017/02/why-does-jan-gardner-oppose-ethics-reform/) criticized Gardner for opposing Sen. Michael Hough’s alternative ethics bill (“Ahead of meeting to discuss ethics proposals, Hough files alternative bill,” Frederick News-Post, Feb. 1).

Deep ethics reform is a net positive for Frederick County, and I will not argue against it. But in my mind it is ill-advised for Hough to singularly introduce omnibus-level legislation, which carries little chance of passage, all for the sake of stirring the local political pot. In other words, I’m not sold on Hough’s “alt-ethics.”

The blog’s author, a Hough donor from 2010, implies that the Democrat Gardner’s opposition to the alternative bill has a direct correlation with two recent donations to her campaign fund. One donation was $500 from Comcast. Another was a $500 donation from Mr. Ivan Lanier, a lobbyist hired to bring the downtown hotel to fruition. Neither of the campaign contributions Red Maryland claims actually poses a conflict or would be affected by Hough’s bill.

For example, Frederick County has hired a third-party consultant to negotiate a new franchise agreement with Comcast. Those negotiations begin next month, meaning that there has been an entire year between these two activities. It is wildly interesting that Hough and his supporters chose Comcast and players in the downtown hotel issue as examples. Hough himself accepted a donation of $960.60 from Comcast a week before the 2014 election. In just the past two years, Hough and his Republican colleague, Delegate Kathy Afzali, have both received donations from hotel proponent Lanier, totaling $1,500 and $250, respectively.

Of deeper interest is the reality that Hough and Afzali took in donations from hotel opponent Randy Cohen. Afzali received $1,500 and Hough received $3,500. I have listened to Mr. Cohen’s s public comments about his opposition to the downtown hotel and, to be clear, I’ve found him to be a sincere individual and understand his position on this issue. As public records show, I donated to Gardner back in 2014. But this is not about who can read campaign finance report spreadsheets the best or who can outlast the other when playing a game of tag in the blogosphere. Rather, what needs to be made clear is that both Hough and Afzali are equal opportunity fundraisers.

Adam Umak

Thurmont

Umak is the executive director of Frederick County Fact Check.

(8) comments

dbjanda1

Want to eliminate all the ethic and influence in government, no longer allow politicians to accept money other than their salaries and benefits to do their jobs....If anyone working in government accepted money from an outside source they are FIRED....Why are elected officials able to do what the rest of government employees not allowed to do ???....Ethics and Influence, that's why !!!!!

DickD

Good to hear from you, Adam, and thanks for setting the record straight.

Tigerzord

Nice letter Adam! The blog post that you mentioned, and the recent radio ad both reek of hypocrisy and political opportunism. We need strong ethics legislation. The County bill was a positive step forward. Sen. Hough's bill was full of holes. For all the words describing it as "stronger" it was actually full of holes and had no teeth. It wouldn't accomplish what he was trying to do and, instead, would have only been used for cheap political mudslinging if it ever passed. Frankly, given the problems in its construction and terms, I don't think it ever had a chance of passing.

Titanman123

jan is just jealous she can't raise money! Pathetic!

hayduke2

Tin - yeah, that's it ( sarcastically said ).

Nicki

[thumbdown] Titanman!

hayduke2

Maybe Hough would be better served strengthening the ethics laws that govern his own behavior and leave local laws to locals....

Nicki

Yes, hayduke2!

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