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York County Budget Committeee v. Board of Commissioners for York County

Superior Court of Maine, York

March 10, 2014

THE YORK COUNTY BUDGET COMMITTEEE, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS FOR YORK COUNTY, Defendant.

ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF: BRADLEY C. MORIN, ESQ. BOURQUE & CLEGG

ATTORNEY FOR DEFENDANT: GENE R. LIBBY, ESQ. TYLER J. SMITH, ESQ. LIBBY O'BRIEN KINGSLEY & CHAMPION LLC

ORDER

John O'Neil, Jr. Justice, Superior Court

I. Background

On September 13, 2012, the Board of Commissioners of York County adopted the York County Code of Ethics.[1] The Code of Ethics requires that every committee member, including the members of the Budget Committee, submit a completed financial disclosure statement within thirty-days after his or her election or appointment. The Code of Ethics further provides:

All votes of conflict of interest questions shall be recorded. A majority vote shall determine the question; but a vote by Committee may later be reviewed, modified or reversed by the County Commissioners upon the County Commissioners' consideration of the same agenda item. The action taken by a Committee where a member with a financial or special interest participates in the negotiation or award of a contract or participates in the vote on a question before the Committee is voidable as provided in Section 3.11(c).

York County Code of Ethics § 3.7(c);

In the absence of actual fraud, which makes an action void, the participation of a County Employee, Officer, Official, Board Member or Committee Member in the negotiation or award of a contract or the vote on a question before the Committee makes the action voidable if the County Employee Officer, Official Board Member or Committee Member fails to disclose a financial or special interest as required by Section 3.7 and 3.8.

York County Code of Ethics § 3.11(c); and:

In addition to any other penalties or remedies as may be provided by law, violation of this Code shall constitute cause for censure, after notice and hearing

conducted by the county commissioners. A majority of the County Commissioners shall conduct such proceedings. A violation of this Code by a County Employee shall also constitute proper grounds for dismissal or other disciplinary action as provided in the County's published Personnel Rules and Regulations. York County Code of Ethics § 3.12.

The members of the Budget Committee refused to acknowledge the policy by signing forms or completing disclosures as required by the Code of Ethics. On June 11, 2013, the County Commissioners notified each member of the Budget Committee that he or she must "show cause" why he or she should not be censured for failing to comply with the policy. The County Commissioners further notified the Budget Committee that failure to comply would make all actions by the Budget Committee voidable. There was a hearing held before the County Commissioners on July 10, 2013. Attorney Bradley Morin appeared on behalf of the budget committee and argued that the Budget Committee does not recognize the Commission's authority to enact the York County Code of Ethics. The Commissioners voted four to one to censure all of the members of the Budget Committee pursuant to Section 3.12 of the Ethics Policy for failure to file a disclosure statement as required by Section 3.8.

The Budget Committee has filed a complaint seeking 80B relief and a declaration that the York County Code of Ethics and the County Commissioners' vote ...


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