Commissioners vote down nonprofit disclosure ordinance
CENTREVILLE — An ordinance that would have required nonprofit organizations to reveal their board members while appearing before the county’s Board of Appeals failed in a 1-4 vote during the commission’s Tuesday, Dec. 13, meeting. Commissioner Jim Moran, who introduced the ordinance, was the only vote in favor of the ordinance.
Ordinance 16-20, introduced on Oct. 11, would have added to the ownership disclosure ordinance the requirement that names and addresses of officers, board members and trustees be disclosed while taking action in front of the board. The ownership disclosure ordinance, known as ordinance 15-04, states that any “corporation, partnership, limited liability company or other legal entity,” as well as anyone with “ownership interest,” to disclose the same information before the Board of Appeals.
During the meeting, Moran said when Ordinance 1504 was originally introduced he asked if the board of commissioners could hold the vote because he wanted to add an amendment stating anybody in opposition of an action in front of the Board of Appeals should disclose their names. The action did not pass and the ordinance was voted on.
Moran said after the Board of Education spoke with the commissioners and stated it would need more than $100 million over about the next decade in an October meeting, it got him thinking about potential money lost over the years as the commission is not in a position to fulfill the Board of Education’s request.
That got him thinking, he said. “There is an organization in Queen Anne’s County, if it’s in Queen Anne’s County, that does a lot of interfering and Four Seasons, Cloisters, are great examples of how much revenue that’s cost Queen Anne’s County,” Moran said.
If an organization is going in front of the Board of Appeals and “impede Queen Anne’s County moving forward,” Moran said it should put its “skin in the game too.” He said organizations should not be able to “hide behind” something that is intrusive to the county.
Commissioner Robert Buckey said he opposed the ordinance because he felt this was government intrusion, and it ought not do that. Buckey also said he felt this ordinance was a “counter reaction” to the original ownership disclosure ordinance.
Having spoken with the Kent Island Historical Society, Commissioner Mark Anderson said it was upset that board members’ names would have to be disclosed “for the very reason that they might be subject to harassment or vandalism or something of the sort.” Anderson also said he did not know what difference board member disclosure would have.
“What they are are citizens coming forward and providing a body with a story,” he said. “It’s up to the body to decide if the story has any validity.”
Commissioner Steve Wilson said he did not support the ordinance, including the passage of Ordinance 15-04 requiring disclosure of LLC ownership information. “I don’t like either,” he said. Wilson also spoke about the social and legal concerns its passage would have.
Moran said that in the past five years, only four times has a not-for-profit entity come before the Board of Appeals, two of which were by one organization. Anderson called the ordnance a “red-headed penguin” designed to “put pressure on a conservation group” that makes up two of the four incidences.
“When I say interfere, 15 years is interfering,” Moran said. “We can all be vested, and we can all be passionate about what we’re talking about, but when it starts costing taxpayers in Queen Anne’s County and starts costing our schools on all of our projects, that kind of money, I’m concerned.”