- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Charles County Ethics Commission is seeking authority to force people to appear and testify under oath after it was accidentally stripped of that power in January. The county commissioners were scheduled to rule on the request June 26 but postponed the matter for further research.
The commission had the ability to subpoena people and documents when investigating formal complaints “as far back in the county code as I was able to find. We’ve always had it. … It just didn’t get put in our redraft,” said County Attorney Barbara L. Holtz, referring to a state-mandated revamp of local jurisdictions’ ethics rules. Charles County’s new ethics code went into effect in January.
Holtz, who advises the ethics commission, said she “took responsibility” for the oversight that left subpoena power out of the new rules. The power had never, to her knowledge, been used.
The Maryland State Ethics Commission has subpoena power, as do two local jurisdictions Holtz polled informally, she said. Two others never submitted the required new rules, three don’t have and aren’t seeking the power, three crafted their own rules such that “subpoena power wasn’t an issue” and one is seeking that power for its ethics commission. In Calvert County, the ethics commission sought subpoena power but was rebuffed by the county commissioners, Holtz said.
“As I say, it’s all over the map. It’s two, two, three, three and one,” she said.
Commissioner Reuben B. Collins II (D) asked if the variety meant the subpoena power was unnecessary.
“Was the conclusion that the board would still be able to fulfill their role of operating for county government without [it]?” he asked.
Holtz said that was an open question and that the state ethics commission had not taken a position either way.
MSEC “did not recommend not having it in there. There’s some extrapolation they don’t object to having subpoena power, though they’re not pushing it on jurisdictions,” Holtz said.
“So we got rid of it ourselves?” Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) confirmed.
“By inaction, yes,” Holtz replied.