cecil county doesn't have an ethics commission

Once seated, an inexperienced Ethics Commission leaves Cecil County in jeopardy

Read my last post about the Ethics Commission–it will help this post make more sense


  • Cecil County does not currently have a sitting Ethics Commission following the decision last month by County Executive Danielle Hornberger to dismiss all members of the previous commission at the same time (a move that I’m not sure anyone has determined to be legal but my interpretation of the situation is that those writing such laws or the Cecil County Charter never anticipated such a –words too colorful for this site– move by an elected official).
  • A regular meeting of the commission that was previously scheduled for 2/8/2021 is now listed as “postponed.”
  • I’m wondering if the county is in violation of some state law by not having a commission in place. (So many questions…)
  • Here’s a video from the 2/2/2021 Cecil County Council legislative session.
  • The council is slated to vote on the appointees at the 2/16/2021 meeting. (Not sure what happens if the council votes against the recommendations. Again, so many questions…)

What is the role of the Ethics Commission?

Per the Ethics Commission page of the Cecil County website (retrieved 2/7/2021)
The Ethics Commission, acting under authority of Cecil County and Maryland state law, is charged with the following responsibilities:

  • Oversight, retention, review and enforcement of statements of financial and gift disclosure and conflicts of interest for county employees, elected officials, candidates for county office, and Board and Commission appointees.
  • Oversight, retention, review and enforcement of annual registration and gift disclosure requirements for lobbyists.
  • Issuance of advisory opinions regarding ethics rules, regulations, and requirements.
  • Review and rule on complaints filed alleging ethics violations by persons subject to ethics laws. 
  • Respond to and inform public regarding ethics rules, regulations, and requirements.
  • Certify to State Ethics Commission annually that county is in compliance with state mandated standards.

As you can see from the list of responsibilities above, this position isn’t about ethics in the “discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation” definition from Merriam Webster Instead, this position is about the interpretation of laws related to the operation of government–knowledge that is gained over years of study and practice.

An inexperienced Ethics Commission leaves Cecil County open to legal jeopardy

While the people nominated by County Executive Danielle Hornberger might be fine people (I don’t know any of them so I can’t vouch for them), none of them appear to have expertise in this aspect of the law. Without sufficient experience on these complicated matters, seating these nominees on the Ethics Commission leaves Cecil County in a significant position of vulnerability with the potential for costly negative consequences. Poorly made decisions by the commission could easily land the county in a costly court case.

What can we do?

  • File a complaint with the State Prosecutors’ Office.
    • Here’s a direct link to the complaint form
    • Here’s a phone number (800-695-4058) but the form is supposed to be the most efficient way to file.
  • Email the council to encourage them to thoroughly vet the appointees to the commission Copy and paste these email addresses: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or call 410-996-5201.
  • Write a Letter to the Editor of the Cecil Whig by sending an email to [email protected] with “Letter to the Editor” in the subject line.
  • Share this post with your friends and ask them to do the same
  • Get engaged and stay engaged with local government. Decisions made at the local level often impact our daily lives more than those at the national level.