POLITICS

Pr. George's Council backs watered-down ethics bill

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Politics,Local,Maryland,Alex Pappas

The Prince George's County Council is backing a watered-down bill in County Executive Rushern Baker's ethics package they once expressed skepticism about, the chairwoman of the council said.

Council Chairwoman Ingrid Turner, who represents the Bowie area, said the council supports compromise

 

legislation proposed to the General Assembly aimed at keeping land developers and county officials from having improper relationships by tweaking the site-plan review process.

The original bill stopped the County Council from calling up appeals of Planning Board decisions on their own, a tactic Baker said has been used by council members to seek concessions from developers hoping to get a project approved.

Turner had expressed concerns that the legislation would have the unintended effect of disrupting the balance of power in the county government by restricting the council's role in development projects. Others argued that it's important for members to be able to call up development site plans on their own, as most citizens don't have time to monitor applications.

A Baker administration official said the compromise version allows the County Council to still call up site plans for development projects, but with new restrictions on the time frame they have for doing so. Baker has expressed concern that council members could indefinitely hold up a development project while asking for concessions. Copies of the amended legislation were not immediately available.

"We want to have the best government for our citizens and how we work together on that is important," Turner said.

William Cavitt of the Indian Head Highway Area Action Council spoke out against the bill at a recent public hearing but called the compromise "reasonable," saying the council needs to be able to call up site plans.

"There are considerations of impacts on the community that are outside the purview of the planning board so there needs to be somebody else to take a look," Cavitt said.

Another bill proposed by Baker in his ethics package -- which he says is necessary to cure the impression that the county is ripe for corruption -- would close loopholes involving campaign contributions through slates.

apappas@washingtonexaminer.com

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