The Cheverly Town Council found last night that council member Dr. Francis George did not violate the town's ethics code by paying a $627.98 convention hotel bill with a bad check in June, although he had been advanced town money for expenses. But the council censured him for "misuse of public funds."
George was issued a $748 check by the town to cover expenses and room charges at the Maryland Municipal League convention in Ocean City. During the convention he wrote a personal check to the Carousel Hotel for $627.98, which, a town ethics committee reported, has not cleared the bank. Adjustments to the account left George's debt to the hotel at $670.16.
Last night, George gave the council a cashier's check for that amount to pay the hotel bill and said he had just received an accurate bill from the hotel for the first time. He said he shared his checking account with another party, the funds were withdrawn without his knowledge and he did not know that his check had bounced until the hotel contacted the town for help in resolving the bill in October. He said that he has since found it difficult to contact hotel officials to settle the debt.
A three-member town ethics committee report issued this month accused George of misusing more than $600 in town funds. And last night's vote censured George "for misuse of public funds by failure to properly control funds which were entrusted solely to him for town use, and failure to promptly resolve this matter."
George, who has been a council member for 5 1/2 years, said he was "pleased at the initial finding of the council. There were a number of mistakes made by the Carousel, and they were less than responsive in getting back to me. I don't see that as an ethics violation. I made it clear to everyone involved that I would respond to the debt in full."