Between The Lines

As would seem consistent with how things are most of the time in the Ocean City political world currently, the Ocean City Ethics Commission is divided on whether Councilman Joe Hall should serve on the town’s pension committee.

Ocean City Pfc. Michael A. Levy, public safety representative on the town’s pension committee, charged that Joe Hall conflicted himself out of a seat on that committee with his recent comments.  Readers will recall Joe Hall said in this paper the following: “I want to be as fair and as equitable as possible to the employees to get the job done, but once they [town employees] retire I think the town should be done with them. The future of the council should not have to be funding people that no longer work for the town …”

These comments set off a firestorm among the city’s employee base, leading Levy, an elected trustee to the pension committee, to bring his charge to the Ethics Commission.

In his letter to the Ethics Commission, Levy touched on the “hostile work environment” the councilman’s comments created.

“I believe that because of Councilman Joseph Hall’s public statements and stated disregard for the retirees/participants that the pension trust serves, his service as a pension trustee would present serious conflicts of interest to the inherent fiduciary responsibilities of a sitting trustee and would not be in the best interest the pension plans, participants and beneficiaries,” he wrote.

Apparently, some members of the Ethics Commission agreed and others did not.

In a letter to Levy from Ethics Commission Chair Charles Barrett, “Based upon the presented testimony, the Ethics Commission was unable to render a consensus opinion (the vote was 2-2) as to whether Council Member Joe Hall’s public statements about the Town’s current Employee Pension Plan present a conflict of interest with his fiduciary responsibilities as a Pension Trustee.”

This stalemate leaves the town in uncharted territory. However, Joe Hall, who recommended the Ethics Commission review after being challenged by Levy publicly, said yesterday he views the indecision as concluding the matter, meaning he can continue to serve.

“I asked for this when Mike came forward. I went in with the high hopes the Ethics Commission would vote that I could handle my fiduciary responsibility. Obviously, the 2-2 vote allows me to continue to serve. I hoped it was going to be a firm yes, but I feel a council person’s expression of his views does not bear on his ability to serve and make judgments and uphold his duties,” Joe Hall said. “[City Solicitor] Guy [Ayres] felt the same way.”

Although the idea seemed to be attractive, the Ocean City Council had some cold feet over a radical change to how the Inlet parking lot operates. It’s a wise decision to not transform the operation in one swoop, but I see merit in making the change to plastic only in the future.

One of the options presented to the council this week involved removing the cash aspect out of the operation as well as eliminating nearly all of the personnel having to be on hand. Surely, it deserves a little study, but most folks are accustomed to having to use a credit card to get out of a parking garage in metropolitan areas, and the cost savings to the city cannot be ignored.

What happened this week regarding the snow, or the lack thereof, is more like what we shore folks are used to when it comes to winter storms.

Snow is forecast. Hysteria follows among the public. The white stuff never comes. Instead, it’s an ice event, and schools close too early and too long.

Hey, but I will take it over the three most recent winter storms of consequence, all of which brought a foot or more of snow to my house in Berlin.

About The Author: Steven Green

Alternative Text

The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.