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Town of Chevy Chase Could Be Next to Face Stricter Ethics Rules

by BethesdaNow.com — October 25, 2012 at 9:34 am 1,188 0

Town of Chevy Chase councilmembers will keep a wary eye on a meeting today that will determine whether they are exempt from stringent ethics rules that have forced the resignation of officials nearby.

The rules, which require elected town and municipal officials to make detailed disclosures of financial holdings, properties and a spouse’s stocks and bonds, caused two Chevy Chase Village Board members to step down last week after the state denied the Village an exemption.

Village Board members Peter Kilborn and Thomas Jackson left their part-time volunteer positions in protest of the requirements, which they said are too stringent for a town that’s half a square mile and has about 2,000 residents.

Today the State Ethics Commission will meet to discuss the Town’s request for an exemption. Town manager Todd Hoffman told Chevy Chase Patch he is not optimistic the Town will receive it.

That could leave the five volunteer members of the Town Council with their own decisions to make.

In Chevy Chase Village, the seven-person Board that makes decisions on a small police force, trash pick-up service and other services is down to five. Board Chairwoman Pat Baptiste told The Gazette that others are considering resignations, but she’s hopeful at least four will stay on to form a quorom.

Town of Chevy Chase Mayor Pat Burda said she will stay on and fulfill the ethics requirements, passed in 2010, if the Town does not receive an exemption.

But she said she understands why Jackson and Kilborn left their posts in neighboring Chevy Chase Village. She’s also concerned the rules would discourage council candidates, as they would also be required to fill out paper work that would reveal previously private financial details.

Town of Chevy Chase Vice Mayor David Lublin, a government professor at American University, said he hasn’t decided if he will run for re-election but he does not anticipate the new ethics rules will cause him to quit.

“Nobody likes filling out forms. Nobody likes doing taxes either,” Lublin said. “But we’ve got to have an ethical government.”

Town of Chevy Chase Councilwoman Kathy Strom, a Washington regulatory lawyer, said she’s not sure she would stay on the Council with the new rules.

“It’s not serving a really important public need,” Strom said.

One Chevy Chase Village resident told Bethesda Now she supports Jackson and Kilborn’s resignations, and “people are entitled to decline to serve if they find the requirements of the position to onerous.”

A portion of the regular taxes Chevy Chase Village residents pay go to Village government services.

Another resident said she has been satisfied with those services and the Village’s management structure. She had no opinion on the resignations.

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