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Hagerstown resident says she'll file ethics complaint against councilwoman

June 18, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- A Hagerstown resident told the City Council on Tuesday that she intends to file an ethics complaint against Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer over a traffic stop in which Cromer was given a warning for allegedly speeding last month near City Park.

During a council meeting, Cathy Ridenour said a "can of worms" had been opened after Cromer was given a warning rather that a ticket on May 26 for allegedly driving 43 mph in a 25-mph zone -- an infraction that carries a $90 fine.

"I, as a tax-paying citizen of Hagerstown, am asking that the (Washington County Ethics Commission) investigate in full the incident that occurred in regards to Councilwoman Cromer being stopped ...," Ridenour said. "My belief ... is that no one is above the law and using one's position of authority is inexcusable, unprofessional and wrong."

According to a supplement of a Hagerstown Police Department report, Cromer used a sarcastic tone with Patrolman Christopher Watt when he pulled her over for allegedly speeding near City Park. Watt wrote in the report that Cromer said, "Do you know who I am?" after he pulled her over and requested her license and registration.

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When Cromer was asked on Tuesday to comment about the ethics complaint, she said, "I don't have anything to say to you. I'm sorry."

Last week, however, Cromer told The Herald-Mail in an interview about the traffic stop that Watt lied in his written report. According to her version of events, Cromer said that she never used the phrase, "Do you know who I am?"

Instead, she said during the stop her license was in her luggage. Cromer offered to get the license, she said, but asked whether that would be necessary if Watt already knew who she was.

In addition to questioning the validity of Watt's report, Cromer claimed that some city officials and members of the police department had made her the target of a vendetta because she was investigating the necessity of a program that lets 48 municipal employees drive home city-owned vehicles. Cromer said the use of the vehicles should be studied to determine whether it was costing the city too much money in the wake of rising gas prices.

On Tuesday, City Attorney William Nairn said the Washington County Ethics Commission would be obligated to investigate Ridenour's ethics complaint.

Ridenour said she used the council meeting to announce her intent to file the complaint and would levy a formal one with the Ethics Commission Wednesday.

Nearly two years ago, the Ethics Commission ruled that Councilwoman Alesia Parson-McBean violated the city's ethics code by "using the prestige of her position" to obtain benefits not afforded to the general public.

In that case, Parson-McBean was pulled over for having an expired registration. After allegedly saying to a police officer "Do you know who I am?" Parson-McBean was driven to the Motor Vehicle Administration to remedy the problem and taken back to her vehicle.

Parson-McBean later apologized for the incident.

Afterward, the City Council voted 3-2 to accept Parson-McBean's apology and her offer to donate $60 each to the Memorial Recreation Center and the Police Athletic League. The council took no further action.

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