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Ethics panel may probe golf trip

April 17, 1997

By ELLEN LYON

Staff Writer

A member of Washington County's Ethics Commission said Wednesday that a trip to the Masters golf tournament by three top county officials is something the panel might want to review.

Omer T. Kaylor Jr., a Hagerstown lawyer, said that in his two years on the Ethics Commission, the five-member panel has met only two or three times, and has had no issues to resolve.

But Kaylor said the officials' trip to Georgia was "something that the committee could discuss and decide if it's an issue ... I would certainly want to take a look at it."

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Last weekend Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook, County Administrator Rodney M. Shoop and County Personnel Director Alan Davis attended the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., with tickets provided by INVESCO, the company which invests Washington County's $22 million employee pension fund, officials said.

Snook, Shoop and Davis said they paid for use of the $100 tickets and reimbursed INVESCO for their food and lodging. But Golf Digest Senior Editor Mike O'Malley said scalpers were selling the much-coveted tickets for as much as $8,000.

"That's not realistic," Snook said of the $8,000 figure.

A limited number of $100 tickets are sold to an exclusive list of ticket holders and the waiting list to become a ticket holder closed out in 1978, tournament officials said.

Davis said County Attorney Richard Douglas was consulted before the trip and determined that it was not a violation of the ethics ordinance.

Snook said he did not think it was a violation because he paid his way.

Another Ethics Commission member and Hagerstown attorney, Catherine Drummond, said it would be premature for her to comment on the issue.

Mildred "Mickey" Myers, who is mayor of Smithsburg, said she joined the commission within the last few months.

"I don't feel in a position to comment ... being very new and not having attended even one meeting," Myers said.

Member William Dorsey said he had no comment. Member Marvin Toms could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Washington County's ethics ordinance, which the Ethics Commission enforces, covers conflict of interest and financial disclosure issues for county officials and employees.

The ordinance stipulates that county officials and employees not solicit any gift or accept gifts of greater value than $25 from anyone who has or is negotiating a contract with the county or is regulated by the county, except when the gifts would not present a conflict of interest as determined by the Ethics Commission.

A gift includes the transfer of anything of economic value without adequate and lawful compensation, according to the ordinance.

The ordinance also says county officials and employees shall not use the prestige of their office for their own benefit.

Under the law any county official or employee found in violation of the ethics ordinance may be subject to disciplinary or other action, including suspension of salary, and a fine of up to $1,000 imposed by the Circuit Court of Washington County.

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