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Man files ethics complaint against city councilwoman

March 09, 2006|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

HAGERSTOWN

The Washington County Ethics Commission will meet Friday to decide if Hagerstown City Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean violated the city's ethics code during a traffic stop outside the Hagerstown Police Department in late January.

The city's ethics code states that a city official or employee found to have violated the code can be subject to "disciplinary or other appropriate personnel action, including suspension of City salary or other compensation." It also states violating the code "shall be a misdemeanor subject to a fine of up to $500 or imprisonment of up to one year."

Anthony T. Campello, a Hagerstown resident who ran unsuccessfully for mayor last March, filed an ethics complaint Tuesday against Parson-McBean with the Hagerstown City Clerk's Office.

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Campello e-mailed the complaint to the city clerk's office, which forwarded it to County Attorney Richard Douglas, City Clerk Donna Spickler said. Douglas said the commission is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. Friday during a closed-door session.

Douglas said the commission is an advisory board and is powerless to impose any consequences if it decides Campello's complaint has any merit. He said it would be up to the city to impose sanctions against Parson-McBean.

Campello alleges Parson-McBean violated two sections of the city's ethics code by allowing the police department not to give her a $60 ticket for driving a vehicle with expired registration and by asking a police lieutenant for a ride to the Motor Vehicle Administration office off Sharpsburg Pike so she could renew her registration.

Campello said he waited more than a month and a half to file the complaint because he believed it should have come from a member of the city council. He said he filed after forming the belief that would not happen.

"The city council just kind of blew it over, and I think they owe the citizens of Hagerstown an explanation of what happened and what they're going to do to ensure this doesn't happen again," Campello said. "I thought the council as a whole should have thought to check the matter out."

Parson-McBean declined to comment on the complaint.

According to police records, Parson-McBean was stopped outside the police department at West Washington Street and Burhans Boulevard at about 11:17 a.m. Jan. 20. Police said she was stopped because the registration on her minivan expired in November. Police said Parson-McBean was not given a ticket and that Lt. William C. Wright drove her to the MVA at her suggestion, waited while she renewed her registration, then drove her back to the police station.

Campello alleges Parson-McBean violated a provision of the ethics code prohibiting council members from soliciting or accepting any gifts "of greater than $25 in value from any person that has or is negotiating a contract with the City or is regulated by their agency, except when those gifts would not present a conflict of interest as determined by the Commission."

He alleges Parson-McBean violated another provision of the ethics code which prohibits council members from using "the prestige of their office for their own benefit or that of another." He wrote in the complaint that Parson-McBean claimed to have been on city business when she was stopped, and had she not done so, she "would not have received the considerations she did."

Campello cited statements by Capt. Charles Summers, who justified the department's actions by saying Parson-McBean "is a member of the city administration and needed to get back on the road to do business for the city," and said that council members "do hold a different, more special relationship than the average citizen." He also cited statements by Chief Arthur Smith, who said Parson-McBean should not have been given a ride and that she should have been cited for the violation.

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