Ethics Board Clears Nordstrom, But Offers Recusal Best In Future For Officials

Ethics Board Clears Nordstrom, But Offers Recusal Best In Future For Officials
Commissioner Josh Nordstrom is pictured making comments at this week’s meeting in Snow Hill. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

SNOW HILL – Commissioner Josh Nordstrom announced this week the Worcester County Ethics Board found no wrongdoing related to his participation in a hospital funding vote.

At the end of Tuesday’s meeting of the Worcester County Commissioners, Nordstrom brought up the ethics complaint filed regarding his participation in a vote to provide Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) with a grant. He said the ethics board had met and found no wrongdoing.

“I really want to thank the administration and the ethics board for their due diligence and I want to thank the people who reached out to me by telephone and by email, some of whom I’ve never met before, who offered me a lot of support after reading the articles that were printed,” Nordstrom said. “I really appreciated that. Those folks know that the votes that I make here are for the best interest of the people of Worcester County and they always will be.”

Last month, Snow Hill resident Marvin Purnell submitted an ethics complaint regarding Nordstrom’s participation in a vote to provide funding to AGH, where his wife works as director of community health.

“It’s a ‘conflict of interest’ when a Worcester County commissioner is allowed to influence, sway, advocate, sponsor and vote to fund monies to a specific entity if and when there is a personal interest and/or gain,” Purnell wrote.

While all proceedings of the ethics board are confidential, Nordstrom volunteered to share the opinion issued regarding his AGH vote.

The opinion states that in general an official should not participate in a matter involving a business entity in which the official or their qualified relative is an officer, director, trustee, partner or employee unless the ethics board approved participation.

“We find that Commissioner Nordstrom had no intent to violate the ordinance,” the opinion reads. “Commissioner Nordstrom showed good faith by disclosing in open session his wife’s employment at AGH. It also appears that there was no direct financial benefit provided to his wife. Instead, the grant to AGH was for capital improvements.”

The opinion goes on to state, however, that this situation should be a learning opportunity.

“At the same time, the ethics board would like to use this occasion as an educational opportunity for all county officials,” the opinion reads. “We recommend that recusal under similar circumstances would be the optimal course of action. Additionally, pre-approval to participate from the ethics board is another option that could be requested.”

The board’s opinion goes on to recommend that all individuals covered by the county’s ethics ordinance should regularly review the law and consult the county attorney regarding any concerns to “prevent any potential perception of conflict of interest from occurring.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.