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Panel: Official broke ethics law

January 09, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Hancock Ethics Commission has ruled that Town Manager Larry Logan violated town law when he wrote a letter last year criticizing a town councilman who was running for mayor.

The commission, in making its first ruling since it was formed eight years ago, recommended that Logan be given a formal reprimand by the Town Council for his actions, Ethics Commission Chairman Donald Corbett said Thursday.

The commission decided Logan violated a section of the Hancock Ethics Law that "prohibits officials and employees who are subject to the ordinance from using the prestige of their office for their own benefit or that of another."

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"I got no comment on that right now," Logan said by phone Thursday.

Hancock resident Edward L. James, who filed the complaint against Logan, said Logan should no longer be town manager as a result of the ruling.

"He's not, in my view, suitable to continue as town manager," James said.

The letter from Logan came after Councilman Darwin Mills spoke out about the town's health insurance policy in a Jan. 25, 2003, story in The Herald-Mail. 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.

Mills, who was running against incumbent Mayor Daniel A. 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 the letter that town residents would be looking for a new town manager if Mills were elected mayor, saying he would never work as town manager for Mills. He said he and Mills had different management styles.

Mills lost by 44 votes to Murphy.

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 because the editorial pages for those days already were printed. In addition, the newspaper's policy is not to run anything but get-out-the-vote type letters on election day.

"I recognize that my writing this letter may result in Mr. Mills trying to sue me, because the Town Manager is not supposed to take sides in a political campaign," Logan wrote in his letter.

While he identified himself as town manager in the letter, Logan testified in a written statement at the Dec. 15, 2003, Ethics Commission hearing that he had written the letter as a citizen of Hancock.

Corbett said Logan had the right to voice his concerns, but should not have identified himself as town manager when he did so.

"There probably would have been no problem ... if he just listed himself as Larry Logan," Corbett said.

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