The chairman of the Anne Arundel County Council acknowledged yesterday that he made a mistake when he represented a client before a local airport authority, over which he has some budget oversight.
Council Chairman Daniel E. Klosterman's comments come after an ethics commission ruling earlier this year that rapped him for his February appearence before the Tipton Airport Authority on behalf of TGMI Contractors, one of his accounting clients.
"Did I make a mistake?" he said yesterday. "In retrospect, I wish I hadn't done it."
Klosterman (D-Glen Burnie) appeared before the board, he said, only to ask that the contractor be notified when bids were requested for a project to build airplane hangars at the small county airport near Fort Meade. The appearance drew concern because Klosterman votes on the airport's funding. The matter was the subject of a story in the Annapolis Capital on the eve of a council vote Dec. 6 naming Klosterman chairman.
Klosterman's accounting work has meant that from time to time he has voted on projects involving his clients, he said.
He voted to approve $3.1 million in funding for Tipton Airport, which includes funds for the airplane hangars. He also has an accounting client, C.E.R. Inc, that is doing contracting work on the county courthouse and the county's detention facility, he said. And the Owensville Primary Care Facility, another client, receives county assistance with its rent.
"I have to vote on the whole capital budget at once, so there is no way to recuse myself," he said, noting that those clients have all been doing county work since before he took office last December.
Some council members said they would like to find a way for him to recuse himself from voting on individual projects.
"Perhaps there's a way to remove some items by line-item," said council member Pamela G. Beidle (D-Linthicum Heights). "But council members can't just stop doing their jobs."
Inevitably some council members will have clients that are doing work with the county, Beidle said.
"I think the rules are clear. If someone comes before the council and I have an interest, then I need to recuse myself," she said. "If someone attempts to use the prestige of their office to benefit a client, then there's an ethics issue."
For their part, airport officials say the episode was awkward, but in no way influenced how they would bid a contract that is still several years away.
"For every contract we will follow a conventional public process," said David Almy, a spokesman for the authority's board. "We will announce what we're looking for, we will receive bids, and make a decision based on cost and quality."