Com­mis­sion­ers vote down non­profit dis­clo­sure or­di­nance

Record Observer - - News - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­

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.”

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