The tale of how the Frederick County Ethics Commission ultimately ruled that Commissioner Kirby Delauter’s contracting business shouldn’t be doing construction work in the county is a twisted one.
That said, Delauter should not be ignoring the commission’s advisory opinion on the matter and continuing to pursue work in the county — even though the opinion is not legally binding.
As a commissioner, Delauter should be prepared to do whatever is necessary to avoid even the potential for a conflict of interest. If he didn’t know that when he ran for the board in 2010, he should have.
Public officials must be adhere to the highest ethical standards. Indeed, Delauter requested the committee’s opinion on the matter.
The March 2011 opinion effectively bars Delauter’s company, W.F. Delauter & Son Inc., from doing construction contracting work in the county, including that undertaken on private projects by private developers. County regulations prohibit Delauter’s company from bidding on county-funded projects.
According to the commission, the potential conflict in Delauter’s company working on private projects lies in the fact all construction work in the county, public and private, is inspected by county inspectors — all of whom ultimately work for Delauter and the commissioners.
As The Gazette’s Katherine Heerbrandt reports this week, W.F. Delauter is the contractor on a pair of water and sewer projects being completed under a pilot program, which the commissioners approved in May 2011, that allows private developers working on such projects to hire private inspectors.
That would seem to be an opening under which Delauter’s company could ethically be a part of construction work being done under the pilot.
However, the program also requires oversight by county inspectors, which brings the matter — ethically speaking — full circle. In addition, one of Delauter’s business partners has applied for a permit for a construction project that is outside of the pilot and will be inspected by county employees.
Delauter and his lawyer say Delauter is not abiding by the ethics committee’s advisory opinion because the committee reached its decision in a manner that denied Delauter due process.
Although the committee reversed itself twice before finally deciding on the matter, it made the right decision in the end. If Delauter expects to continue serving the citizens of Frederick County in a manner that removes all doubt about his reliability and credibility, he should abide by the commission’s advice.