After discussing the new state "sunshine" laws regarding public meetings, the Prince George's County Council this week enacted a few pieces of legislation of its own in the area of public disclosure.
In three unanimous decisions, council members voted to adopt legislation that would require people doing business with the county to disclose the ownership of their firms.
It requires that the names and addresses of all owners, and in the case of corporate ownership, a list of the board of directors and major stockholders, be submitted with any application for zoning, water and sewer allocation and contract bids for services with the county government.
"It is one of the strongest disclosure laws in the state and metropolitan area," said council member Parris N. Glendening, one of the sponsors of the legislation.
"Now, on everything from contracts to zoning to water and sewer we know who is behind the application. It is not our intention to bring government to a stop with this, but to bring a sense of reasonableness to it," he said.
Council member Samuel W. Bogley said he hinks the new laws will "have a tremendous impact" on the government.
"In considering zoning for a corporation that was a large contributor to us or for an instrumental figure in the Democratic Party, we'll have to address the (zoning) issue and the ownership out in the open," Bogley said.
"Down near election time," he said, "it will cramp their style, but if the request is a good case, we can judge it on its merits."
Glendening admitted the legislation could prove to be detriment to some people politically involved in the county. "it won't get rid of the politics, but what we do get rid of is the late disclosure of the political decision."
Council member David G. Hartlove Jr. voted for the legislation but he said "would rather not know who owned what or who was involved in what case."
"I'd rather vote on the property and its usefulness or need as it is. It seems we could be criticized more strongly if we knew who it would affecct before we voted on it," Hartlove said.
The legislation would require disclosure of the names of corporate officers and stockholders holding at least 10 per cent of corporate stock in a contract bid application or at least 5 per cent in zoning and water and sewer cases.
It also requires disclosure by county council members who participate in any oral or written communication with an applicant for water and sewer allocation. A council member would be required to file a statement including the names and financial interests of any speaker involved in the application to the clerk of the council.
Future applications will include a form for the disclosure information. Penalties for violation of the legislation could be a maximum of $1,000 or one year in jail, according to Glendening. "But if the applicants were incomplete or inadequate, they would simply not processed and get set aside - which is far more dangerous for some of these big developers than a fine.