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Hancock Ethics Commission may explore possible rules violation

April 16, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK - The Hancock Ethics Commission may decide whether Town Manager Larry Logan violated any town rules when he wrote a Jan. 25 letter that criticized a councilman running for mayor in the town's Jan. 28 election.

Mayor Daniel A. Murphy said last week that the ethics panel would convene if town resident Edward L. James submits a written request for the review.

James, at Town Council meetings last Wednesday and last month, asked for the review by the ethics board.

James said Tuesday that he had submitted a written request.

The letter from Logan came after Councilman Darwin Mills spoke out about the town's health insurance policy in a Jan. 25 story in The Morning Herald. Mills was quoted as saying the town had been issuing untaxed benefits checks to several employees who had opted out of Hancock's health insurance program.

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Mills, who was running against Murphy for mayor, said he opposed the payouts and had been trying to put a stop to the procedure for years.

In a rebuttal to Mills' statements, Logan wrote in a letter that town residents would be looking for a new town manager if Mills was elected mayor.

Mills lost by 44 votes to Murphy.

Mills and James contend that the letter indicated Logan took sides at the time of the election, which they allege was an ethics violation.

Logan submitted the letter on the Saturday before the election to The Herald-Mail as a Letter to the Editor and asked that it run before or on the day of the election. The Herald-Mail did not publish the letter.

"The letter came in on Saturday, with a request that it run Sunday. Because our Sunday section is pre-printed at noon on Friday, it was too late to run it. Monday's page was also done at that point, and it's our policy not to run anything but 'get-out-the-vote' type letters on election day," said Bob Maginnis, the paper's Editorial Page editor.

In the letter, Logan wrote, "After a great deal of personal consideration, I have decided that I would never work as town manager for Darwin Mills, should he be elected mayor. I would leave when my six-month contract with the town expires."

At last week's Town Council meeting, Mills asked Murphy why he didn't stop Logan from writing the letter. Murphy said it wasn't a public issue and declined to comment.

Logan called the matter inconsequential because the letter wasn't published.

At the March town meeting, Mills said he took the letter to be a "character assassination and a clear attempt to influence the outcome of the election."

He asked that the town adopt the International City/County Management Association Code of Ethics.

James made the same request last month.

Mills made a motion at last week's meeting to adopt the Code of Ethics, but the motion failed for a lack of a second. Murphy, Mills and Councilman Greg Yost attended the meeting. Councilmen David Smith and Randy Pittman did not attend.

After the meeting, Yost said he didn't second Mills' motion because the town does not subscribe to the International City/County Management Association. He said he supports the town adopting some type of ethics code for all town officials.

He suggested that the town consider the Code of Ethics written by the state or the National Association of Counties.

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