A Feb. 7 article about Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose incorrectly stated his annual salary. It is $160,619. (Published 2/11/03)
Six weeks after he announced the arrest of the Washington area sniper suspects, Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose established a for-profit consulting firm to deliver motivational talks, organize team-building exercises and offer pointers on crisis management and conflict resolution.
The venture is one of several off-duty opportunities that could place Moose at odds with the Montgomery County Ethics Commission, which forbids "using the prestige of office for personal gain."
Moreover, records show that Moose has failed to seek waivers from the commission, as required by county law, to pursue his post-sniper ventures, which also include an agreement with a New York publisher for a book about the case and a possible television movie. (Reporters for the Washington Post also have a contract to publish a sniper book.) Nor has Moose obtained clearance from the commission for the teaching position he has held since 2000, or for his paid service in the D.C. Air National Guard.
When asked yesterday why he had not submitted to an ethics review, Moose said the questions were unwarranted and motivated by the media's desire to damage his reputation.
"I don't know why I'm under attack," said Moose, who has pledged some of the profits from the book and movie deals to victims of the shootings and two other Washington area charities.
Later in the day, though, Moose phoned to say he had a change of heart.
"The rules are the rules," he said. "I enforce the rules, and I will fall on that sword."
Moose, who makes $125,000 a year as chief, said his failure to file requests for permission to seek outside employment was merely an oversight, and he added: "I'm going to rectify that. I'll be putting one in for the National Guard, and I'll be putting the paperwork in for Dutton publishing. Someone will have to decide if I need to resign from teaching this term."
In his previous job, as chief of the Portland, Ore., police department, Moose said, no such ethics restrictions existed and he didn't anticipate outside employment being an issue in Montgomery when he arrived in 1999.
County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) said that when he hired Moose, it was with the understanding that the chief would also teach and do consulting work, as he had in Portland. Moose started teaching an evening course in administration of justice at Montgomery College's Rockville campus soon after his arrival. He incorporated the consulting firm with Maryland on Dec. 2.
But the understanding did not exempt Moose from an ethics review. County employees are given six weeks to disclose their plans for outside employment to the Ethics Commission. Records of the commission's rulings are public and posted on the Internet. But ethics officials found no trace of Moose's applications. Then, after receiving an inquiry from The Washington Post, county officials conducted their own search.
Duncan said yesterday that he's "not sure how [Moose's] forms did not get sent to the Ethics Commission. They should have, and they're being sent now."
Edward B. Lattner, the associate county attorney who represents the ethics panel, said employees must get approval to moonlight in order to avoid conflicts of interest.
A liquor inspector, for instance, should not be allowed to work at a tavern. "There is always the potential for conflict if you're serving two masters," Lattner said.
The result is that more than 100 county employees seek -- and receive -- approval for a wide range of outside work each year. County attorneys teach law classes. Police officers work security.
But Moose's work on a book, or a tour on the lecture circuit, could present a range of ethical concerns for the county, according to Barbara McNally, the Ethics Commission's executive secretary.
Among the provisions likely to be considered when the commission meets on the Moose case Feb. 18 are prohibitions against an employee using a county job for personal gain and against displaying a title, uniform or county insignia in a private enterprise. Rules also bar disclosure of confidential information, which could include details of a police investigation.
Precedent appears to stand against Moose. In 1994, the commission denied a request by a department head who wanted to write a training textbook, drawing on expertise gained while employed by the county. The commission recently barred police commanders from accepting even nominal fees for speaking publicly about the sniper investigation.
Moose said yesterday that sudden fame, and the thicket of ethical issues attending it, caught him off guard.
When he walks down the street or dines in a restaurant, he is swarmed by well-wishers and pressed to pose for photos. Strolling in Annapolis yesterday, as he was pursued by a herd of television cameras and reporters seeking interviews, one fan handed him a pie.
He said his reaction to celebrity was to seize the opportunity with such ventures as the consulting firm, named "Two Moose -- A Caring Partnership," which he formed with his wife, Sandy. "We haven't made a single penny, but we remain hopeful," he said.
The Mooses had a similar business in Oregon, but that was before he became a familiar face on CNN.
"All of a sudden, a room full of 14-year-olds will now sit still and hear what I have to say about making good decisions in life," Moose said. "I think I should go talk to the 14-year-olds."