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Maryland Politics
Posted at 04:15 PM ET, 03/16/2012

Ex-Montgomery watchdog violated ethics laws in pushing to get deputy a raise, panel says

The Montgomery County Ethics Commission ruled on Friday that a former inspector general inappropriately pressured a county official to give his deputy a pay raise.

The former employee, Thomas Dagley, responded that the ruling was retaliatory because he had criticized county officials in his investigative reports. The panel was attempting to discredit his work, he said.

At a hearing in December, Dagley said he requested the raise in June 2009 because his deputy’s colleagues were making significantly higher pay. For three months, Dagley debated the pay raise with Joseph Adler, the county’s human resources director. A 22 percent raise was approved that October, and then-County Council member Duchy Trachtenberg filed an ethics complaint against Dagley the next month.

The complaint cited an e-mail that Dagley had sent to Adler in which the inspector general mused about whether he should investigate the issue of management pay. Adler said at the hearing that he perceived the e-mail as a “veiled threat.”

In its opinion, the ethics panel acknowledged that Dagley’s office had been investigating the human resources office at the time and had been issuing reports that cast the office in a negative light. “The Commission is convinced that the raise request arose in difficult circumstances,” the opinion said.

But because Dagley did not make any “meaningful” effort to pursue the investigation after the pay raise was given, the commission ruled, Dagley had simply used the possibility of a probe as leverage — a violation of county ethics laws. The commission did not issue a penalty, saying the public opinion was enough.

Associate County Attorney Christine M. Collins argued the county’s case before the ethics commission and said she is “absolutely satisfied” by the decision.

Dagley, however, wrote a scathing two-page statement, describing the ruling as “balderdash.” He also suggested that the ethics commission had a conflict of interest of its own, making reference to a March 2010 public report in which he described “deficiencies” in how the commission operates.

Neither Robert Cobb, the commission's executive director, nor Nina Weisbroth, the commission’s chair, immediately returned a request for comment Friday. The current inspector general, Edward L. Blansitt, is performing an audit on the commission. He did not return a request for comment on the status of his investigation.

By  |  04:15 PM ET, 03/16/2012

 
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