The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission took its first steps toward a new code of ethics on Monday when a special committee tentatively approved a new policy regulating outside employment by WSSC employees. The special ethics committee also approved the weekly agenda it will follow in the next two months as it prepares the recommendations it will give to the commission by mid-June.
"Things are going to be very healthy around here" as a result of the ethics committee's work, WSSC Chairman Johanna Norris predicted yesterday. "We're creating a new image here, and tightening up our procedures," she said.
For the first time in its 61-year history, WSSC employees will be required to state in writing whether they hold jobs away from the agency, according to the recommendation tentatively approved Monday.
If a review of that written statement shows a potential conflict of interest between the employee's full-time WSSC job and his outside employment, the employee will be asked to either drop his outside work, or limit his WSSC work so that it does not impinge on his outside job, the recommendation says.
"In 99 per cent of the cases, we think that their outside work is done strictly for money, and doubt that conflicts will be found," said Richard Haddad, the WSSC's personnel director who is chairing the ethics committee.
"However, if we find, for example, that a (WSSC) engineer is also doing outside work for a contractor who gets work from us, we would tell that engineer that we will limit his work here so there can't be any conflict with his (outside) work," Haddad said.
"In an extreme case we might ask him to leave the agency, if he won't avoid a conflict-type situation," he added.
The requirement would apply to all fulltime and part-time WSSC employees, Haddad said.
Previously, employee were simply told that potential conflicts of interest were to be avoided, "but we never had a follow-through system, which this recommendation gives us," he said.
The conflict of interest proposal as well as any future recommendations must still be formally approved by the full committee, he said. A report will be sent sometime in June to the WSSC board, which can accept or reject the recommendations.
The ethics committee also agreed to begin holding six or eight weekly meetings, beginning Thursday, April 14, Haddad said. At those meetings such matters as financial disclosure regulations and grievance procedures will be discussed, he said.
"We don't want to create an administrative horror, with lots of bureaucrats running around, pushing paper," Haddad explained. "We want to create a practical guide to what WSSC employees can and cannot do," he said.
The ethics committeewas created by commission member David Scotton in February in the wake of allegations of favoratism and special dealings by former WSSC general manager John McLead and others. McLeod himself had announced his retirement in January of 1976 shortly after five WSSC inspectors were indicted by a Montgomery County Grand Jury on 123 counts of bribery.
The indictments were later dropped because there was no state law making it illegal for members of bicounty boards to accept bribes. McLeod, who left the agency last January, has always denied any connection between the indictments and his retirement.
McLeod's successor, Robert S. McGarry, will begin work as general manager on April 18, Scotton had originally said the new ethics code was intended to give McLeod's successor "a whole new atmosphere . . . in which hMcLeod's successor "a whole new atmosphere. . .in which he can feel comfortable."