Prince George's County Executive Winfield Kelly and County Councilman Parris Glendening yesterday proposed legislation that would require people doing business with the county to disclose the ownership of their firms.
"We are trying to open the government and see all of the players," Kelly said at a press conference.
The proposed legislation would require that the names and addresses of all owners, and in the case of corporate ownership, a list of the board of directors and major stockholders, be submitted with any application for zoning, water and sewer allocations and contracts bids for services with the county government.
Glendening said the legislation would require disclosure of the names of corporate officers and stockholders holding at least 10 per cent interest in a firm.
"When an applicant comes before the [county] District Council for zoning or the County Council for water and sewer allocations, there is often a corporate veil that must be pierced," he said.
"In a zoning case, we need to know 'Who is it"' 'Is it a contributor to my campaign?' 'Is it someone I had dinner with last night'" who is a stockholder, Glendening said.
Kelly added, "We need to fully know who the zoning applicant is to prevent a situation developing where we don't know who or what is involved. Often these interests are hidden because stockholders can be several times removed from corporate decisions. This way we can identify them readily."
Kelly denied that Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel's alleged conflict-of-interest problems with the Marlboro racetrack instigated the legislation. "Some months ago we recognized that as we looked at our approvals for contracts and zonings we wanted to know who they are for. We realize that approvals could harbor a conflict of interest," the county executive said.
As a result of rezoning decision made in September, 1976, by the Council, Kelly received $58,000 from a parcel of land he had sold in 1974 to Steuart Investment Co. The sales agreement between Kelly and the firm was contingent on the zoning change. County Council members said at the time that they were not aware that the Steuart rezoning application was for the land Kelly had previously owned.
Glendening of interest. "You put all the names on it and we will know."
If a possible conflict of interest occurs, a councilman could abstain from voting on an issue before the Council Glendening said.
He said such conflicts might arise if a Council member could profit from the outcome of a decision, or if the decision involved a major political contributor.
The legislation would also require disclosure by County Council members who participate in any oral or written communication with an applicant for water and sewer allocations. A written statement to the clerk of the Council, including the names and financial interests of any person involved in the application, also would have to be filed by the Council members.
Applicants for zoning changes could be fined $500 or sentenced to 90 days in jail for noncompliance; contract bidders who violate the ordinance could be fined $1,000or sentenced to six months in jail.
The measure will be considered by the entire County Council.