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County ethics panel to consider complaint against Hagerstown councilwoman

July 24, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The Washington County Ethics Commission is to meet today to consider a complaint against Hagerstown City Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer, who, among other things, said a city patrolman lied in a report after he pulled her over for speeding in May near City Park.

Should the four-member commission determine that Cromer acted unethically, the matter would be forwarded to the Hagerstown City Council for further consideration, said Kirk Downey, assistant attorney for Washington County. The council could choose to do nothing or impose a maximum $500 fine and suspend the salary that Cromer earns from the city.

City Council members earn $8,000 per year.

Downey said Cromer would be "allowed to present evidence to help the commission make its decision," but would not be permitted to sit in while the commission deliberates her case.

During a June 17 City Council meeting, city resident Cathy Ridenour told the council that she intended to file the complaint, in part because Cromer was given a warning rather than a ticket after she was pulled over May 26 near City Park for allegedly driving 43 mph in a 25-mph zone - an infraction that carries a $90 fine.

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Ridenour said in a prepared statement that she read to the council, "My belief and I am sure many other people feel ... that no one is above the law, and using one's position of authority is inexcusable, unprofessional and wrong."

Ridenour filed the complaint June 18.

According to a supplement of a Hagerstown Police Department report, Cromer used a sarcastic tone with Patrolman Christopher Watt after he pulled her over for speeding. In his report, Watt wrote that Cromer said "Do you know who I am?" when he asked for her driver's license and registration.

Cromer said in an interview a few weeks after the stop that she never asked "Do you know who I am?" and called Watt a liar for claiming in his report that she did. According to her version of events, Cromer said she offered to get the license, which was in her luggage, but asked whether that would be necessary if Watt already knew who she was.

In addition, Cromer said some city officials and members of the police department had a vendetta against her at the time of the stop because she was scrutinizing the validity of a program in which certain municipal employees are allowed to drive city-owned vehicles to and from work.

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