After six evenings of witness testimony and cross-examination, the Charles County Ethics Commission wrapped up its closed-door hearings last week into a conflict of interest charge against the county's former top administrator and another high-level government official.
Nine months after a complaint was filed by commissioners President Wayne Cooper (D), the four-member panel was to meet Tuesday night to review the testimony and presumably move closer to a decision.
In March, Cooper asked the panel to investigate whether Fiscal Services Director Richard A. Winkler and then-County Administrator Eugene T. Lauer -- both military veterans -- acted appropriately when they participated in talks about improving retirement benefits for county employees with military experience.
In separate hearings, Lauer and Winkler made their case, presented character witnesses and listened to testimony from other players, including Cooper and Del. W. Daniel Mayer (R-Charles), a former commissioner.
According to minutes from the meeting in question, Lauer and Winkler recused themselves from voting. Lauer, who retired this fall, already receives a military service credit because of his tenure in Prince George's County.
The ethics commission is required to prepare a final report that can include a wide range of results. If the panel finds that the county's ethics law has been violated, it can issue a reprimand, discipline the subjects through censure or removal, and suspend salaries.
The parties could still decide to settle before a conclusion is reached, or the commission could conclude that the county's ethics law was not violated.
When the commission might reach a conclusion is not publicly known, but all decisions must be agreed to by a majority of the members.
Swan Point Agreement
The Charles County commissioners appeared to have reached an agreement this week, at least in concept, with developers of the waterfront community on Swan Point.
On Tuesday, county leaders directed their attorney, Roger Fink, to hammer out a formal agreement with attorneys for U.S. Steel that would allow work to begin on the expansion of the community's wastewater treatment plant. U.S. Steel owns the vacant land that would be the site for a major expansion of the Swan Point development.
The building of homes in the golf course community has been blocked since summer 2004 because of the plant's capacity. The proposed expansion was endorsed by the immediate neighbors who make up the Swan Point Property Owners Association.
But it has been met with resistance by others nearby and some commissioners who wanted the developers to consider alternatives to pumping treated sewage into Cuckold Creek.
The commissioners have asked lawyers to bring forward the official agreement next week.
Hale to Remain President
The Calvert County commissioners voted Tuesday to keep David F. Hale as their president for the coming year.
Hale, a Republican from Owings, is serving his second four-year term as a commissioner. With Tuesday's vote, he will keep the presidency for a sixth one-year term.
The board also voted to make Commissioner Wilson H. Parran (D-At Large) the board's vice president. Parran was nominated by Commissioner Gerald W. Clark (R-Lusby), the outgoing vice president.
The president and vice president are elected each December by a majority vote of the five commissioners. The board also voted to reappoint Corinne J. Cook as the commissioners clerk.
The vote in all three cases was 4 to 0, with Commissioner Linda L. Kelley (R-At Large) abstaining. Kelley said she didn't vote for political reasons and other differences. In Parran's case, she said that as a Republican, she was against having a Democrat as vice president of the board.