Lang Seeks Ethics Clarification Over Private Work

BERLIN – Berlin Town Council member Ellen Lang said this week she wants to settle ethics questions from her constituents over her participation in votes on issues brought before the council by going before the town ethics committee.

The council member said there had been some questions from Berlin citizens over her involvement with OC Law Office Holding Company, LLC, a limited liability company owned by three lawyers, including local attorney Joe Moore, who often appears before the council.

Lang, a self-employed bookkeeper, receives a salary from the holding company, which is one of several clients, for bookkeeping services. She has no financial interest in the company, she said.

On Monday night, Lang recused herself from voting on the M-1A industrial zone text amendment, a change proposed by Moore, who was acting as attorney for Davis Farm developer Tom Ruark.   

While she does not feel she has committed any ethical transgressions, Lang said she is concerned that there could be an appearance of wrongdoing.

“I take my reputation very seriously,” Lang said.

Lang asked Berlin Administrative Director Linda Bambary to call a meeting of the Berlin Ethics Board, so she could present the situation. She said she wants a ruling on her participation in votes on matters involving Moore.

The meeting of the Ethics Board and the board’s ruling would be a precaution.

“I would like to explain the situation and have a ruling because Mr. Moore frequently appears before this council,” Lang said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been influenced by Mr. Moore or anybody else on my votes.”

The Ethics Board rarely convenes in Berlin, Bambary explained later. In eight years working for the town, she can recall only one other Ethics Board meeting to consider whether a town employee with a side business could do outside work for Berlin.

The three-member Berlin Ethics Commission is Father Michael Moyer, Jim Hoppa, and Aerie Smack.

One clause of the Berlin ethics code could be applicable in to Lang’s situation. Section 6-3(D) pf the code reads, “Berlin officials and employees who are subject to this chapter shall not: D. Hold any outside employment relationship that would impair their impartiality or independence of judgment.”

Nobody has filed a complaint with the town over Lang’s actions on the council.