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Ethics panel: Cromer did not act unethically in traffic stop

August 01, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

Editor's note: To see a copy of the Washington County Ethics Commission's report on its decision in the complaint filed against Hagerstown City Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer, click here




Hagerstown City Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer did not act unethically during a traffic stop near City Park in Hagerstown, the Washington County Ethics Commission said in a report made public Thursday.

A complaint, filed last month by Hagerstown resident Cindy Ridenour, accused Cromer of using her position as a councilwoman to avoid getting a ticket when she was pulled over May 26 after allegedly driving 43 mph in a 25-mph zone.

Cromer was issued a warning instead of a ticket.

The commission said in its decision that Cromer acted inappropriately, but not unethically. The decision was signed by commission Chairwoman Dana Moylan.

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Cromer said Thursday she was glad that the incident was over.

"I'm very happy with the outcome," Cromer said. "I'm ready to move forward and get on with city business."

According to a supplement of a Hagerstown police report, Cromer said, "Do you know who I am?" after Patrolman Christopher Watt pulled her over and asked for her registration and driver's license.

Watt also alleged that Cromer used a sarcastic tone throughout the stop.

In an interview following the incident, Cromer called Watt a liar, saying she never said, "Do you know who I am?" In addition, she claimed the police department had a vendetta against her for questioning the validity of a program in which some city employees are permitted to drive city-owned vehicles to and from work.

In her testimony to the ethics commission, Cromer acknowledged saying, "You know who I am, right?" rather than, "Do you know who I am?" - not in an attempt to gain special treatment, but to avoid searching her luggage for the license if Watt already knew who she was.

Cromer also admitted to the commission that her "personality is such that she is often perceived to be sarcastic, even when she has no definite intention to employ sarcasm."

The commission said the facts of the stories that Cromer and Watt submitted were inconsistent, but when the facts could not be proven "by a preponderance of the evidence, we must resolve it in favor of the person under scrutiny."

Furthermore, the commission wrote, "Ms. Cromer's tone was unbecoming and her statements to Officer Watt, while not violative of the code, were susceptible to having sinister motives grafted upon them.

"However, when taken in the context of a traffic stop ... They are not unremarkable and not demonstrative of a city official using the prestige of her office for her own benefit."

Ridenour rebuked the commission's findings, saying they were "a joke."

"I believe the police officer," Ridenour said. "I indeed believe she violated the code of ethics and justice did not prevail. It just shows what people can get away with."

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