The City Council moved a step closer this week toward ousting two city officials from Rockville's Historic District Commission because they allegedly violated the city ethics law.
The council voted 3 to 2 to direct City Attorney Paul T. Glasgow to prepare a resolution calling for the dismissal of A. Howard Metro and Charles S. Rand from the five-member commission. The resolution is expected to be acted upon by the council next month.
Metro is accused by the city attorney's office of violating the ethics law by failing to file a public financial disclosure statement. Rand, a Rockville lawyer, is accused of an ethics violation stemming from a lawsuit he filed against the city on behalf of a client over a zoning decision.
Under provisions of the newly revised ethics law, all elected and appointed officials must file forms with the city disclosing their personal finances. Another provision bars officials from representing private parties in litigation against the city. Family members and personal injury suits are exempt.
Metro has contended before the council that the financial disclosure requirement violates his constitutional right to privacy. At a public hearing earlier this month, Metro told the council that he had filed a disclosure form with Glasgow, but placed conditions on who could view it. Glasgow refused to hold the form under such conditions, Metro said.
Rand filed suit in April in Montgomery county Circuit Court for Sheraton Potomac Inn challenging a ruling by the city Board of Appeals permitting a Sheraton competitor, the Marriott Corp., to build a motel nearby.
Rand contends that the ethics provision violates his constitutional rights to free speech. He has refused to comply with a cityorder that he either drop out of the case or surrender his commission seat.
In voting to move ahead with the dismissals, the council defeated aproposal by John Tyner II to hire an expert on constitutional law to review the cases and submit an opinion on whether the constitutional rights of Metro or Rand had been violated.
"In this case, I don't have all the facts I need to make my decision," Tyner explained. " . . . I think I'd like to go that extra mile, if I can."
Mayor Viola D. Hovsepian and two council members opposed Tyner's proposal.
"We passed an ethics ordinance adn there are some very specific requirements," member Peter R. Hartogensis said. "To me there is no ambiguity at all."
In other business, the council voted 4 to 1 to kill a proposed amendment to the city charter that would have restricted a mayor's term to two consecutive years and a council member's term to three consecutive years.
Council action on a second proposed amendment, which would provide for a special election should a mayoral vacancy occur during the first six months after an election, was deferred until next month.