The New Carrollton Ethics Commission has found Mayor Jordan L. Harding in a conflict of interest for borrowing a van from Bob Banning, a car dealer who does business with the city and is involved in a legal dispute with it.
But the Ethics Commission recommended that no sanctions be applied to the mayor, concluding that the conflict was "unintentional" and that no harm was done.
Banning has sold, leased and loaned vehicles to the city. It is involved in a civil suit with the city over how high the dealership can build its signs.
Harding, who took Banning's side when the sign dispute two years ago came before the City Council, borrowed a van from Banning last summer to attend an American Legion convention in Ocean City, Md.
"It's not that big a deal," Harding, who has been mayor for 13 years, said last week. "I made a mistake. Bob Banning and I have been very close personal friends for about 25 years."
When he borrowed the van, Harding said, "It was just like me borrowing a lawnmower from my next door neighbor."
In retrospect, Harding said, "I think I used poor judgment. You have to be sensitive, even if someone gives you a cigar. I've known the guy for so long, even before I went into public office. . . . I had a lapse."
The Ethics Commission recommended that no action be taken against Harding. It said Harding's relationship was unintentional and Banning did not benefit from the arrangement and cited Harding's "good record as a public servant."
City Council Chairman Robert Potter said the council, which called for the investigation last fall, probably will follow the commission's recommendation and take no further action. "I think that's it," Potter said. "Now it's behind us."