Twice this fall, Anne Arundel County Council member David G. Boschert has used his public office to open doors for his employer, including arranging a meeting with top county officials to seek county investments, bringing bitter criticism this week from his colleagues on the County Council.
"I think it perhaps comes close to going against the ethics code. The appearance is regrettable and appearance is 90 percent of public life," said Council Chairwoman Virginia P. Clagett (D-West River). "It raises questions of how the government runs. We don't appreciate being put in that position and hope no council member will put us in that position again."
Boschert, who works for Odenton Federal Savings and Loan, said he will apologize publicly for any appearance of impropriety at the County Council meeting Wednesday, but his colleagues on the council, who appointed him four months ago, said they are angry and embarrassed.
"I do feel I made an error in judgment," said Boschert, who as vice president of public relations for Odenton Federal is responsible for seeking new accounts. "I was looking at it more as a banker than a councilman. I really have to plead naivete."
The councilman said he stood to gain no financial or other reward for his actions.
At the heart of the controversy is a Nov. 14 luncheon Boschert arranged with James G. Thompson, president of Odenton Federal; Adrian Teel, Anne Arundel County director of administration; and Walter Chitwood, county controller. According to all four men, Boschert made introductions and sat through the lunch while Thompson and the officials talked.
Boschert said his intent was to introduce Teel and Chitwood -- who decide where to invest county funds -- to the potential of using savings and loans institutions in general. However, the others said the discussion focused on putting county money into Odenton Federal. Teel and Chitwood said the institution is too small to suit their needs and no deposits there are planned.
Earlier this fall, on Sept. 21, Boschert took Thompson to Columbus, Ohio, to tour Cardinal Industries' modular housing manufacturing plant along with a dozen civic and public figures and a reporter from a local newspaper. Thompson was the only businessman to attend and, along with Boschert, visited the corporation's mortgage company. However, no solicitation of business was made, said Michael Salster, a spokesman for Cardinal. Representatives from lending institutions regularly tour the plant, he added.
Cardinal will open a similar modular housing manufacturing plant near Baltimore-Washington International Airport next summer and has been offering tours to local officials. Cardinal paid all fares, Salster said.
Council members said they plan no action after being assured by Boschert that he was not trying to influence public policies for private gain, but an investigation by the county ethics officer is possible if a formal complaint is filed.
County Solicitor Stephen Beard, who doubles as ethics officer, said he could not comment on whether he has received a complaint.
The ethics code forbids county officials or employes from "participating in any matter" in which they have "direct financial interest or in which [they] are an officer," said Beard.
Boschert was selected by the council in June to fill the remaining two years of the late council chairman Wallace R. Childs' term. Except for a ceremonial one-month stint as a state delegate in 1982, Boschert has held no elected office.
Council members said they felt particularly chagrined by his actions because they selected him and because two weeks ago, before the incidents were publicized in recent press accounts, they approved a routine resolution declaring that his position at Odenton Federal posed no conflict of interest in itself.
Thompson said the meeting and tour have been "blown out of proportion," but Councilman Theodore Sophocleus (D-Linthicum) said he believes there's a basic lesson involved.
"When you're an elected official there are things you can't do any more because it opens doors not normally opened to the general public," Sophocleus said.