(12/15) Town Commissioner Art Elder has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the town and Mayor. James Hoover.
"I got the notice (of the lawsuit) prior to the Dec. 5 town meeting," Mr. Hoover: said. 'Art Eider filed court documents' and summons, the town is being sued."
One of the town's key employees, resigned a few days before the mayor learned about the lawsuit. But Mr. Hoover denied any connection between the departure of Town Planner Mike Lucas and the case.
Mr. Elder continued he had filed documents in Frederick County Circuit Court,' but would not comment on the details of the lawsuit.
Mr. Elder has said he believed his reputation and that of his follow commissioner. William O'Neil Jr., were smeared in an investigation by the Emmitsburg Ethics Committee that began just before Christmas 2004 and dragged on for months.
"Deja Vu," Mr. O'Neil said Wednesday.
"I support Art Elder" I think he was wronged, as was I. We've said all along how we felt about this.'
The ethics committee at the request of two local business men, investigate Mr. O'Neil and Mr. Elder for about four months.
The committee's report concluded that both commissioners had overstepped their bounds.
Mr. Elder has characterized the ethics investigation, headed by Ted Brennan, who lost the election to Mr. Eider as a "witch hunt:' One of the businessmen who requested the investigation had worked on Mr. Brennan's campaign.
The committee did not interview the commissioners being investigated or any of their supporters.
According to the report, Mr. Elder violated the towns charter in trying to circumvent the county's zoning law to help a printing business he had formerly owned. Mr. Elder also tailed to
recuse himself from voting on issues relating to a car wash that competed with a business he owns according to the report. Mr. O'Neil had used his influence to pressure Mr. Lucas to investigate Mr. Elder's competitors, according to the report.
In doubting the validity of the report, Mr. Elder, the town's treasurer, questioned why Mr. Lucas never cashed a $800 check to cover attorney's fees incurred in the ethics investigation.
Mr. Lucas said at the time he decided to pay for the attorney himself and didn't need the money. Mr. Hoover said Mr. Lucas made a mistake and he reprimanded him for it.
During its Investigation, the ethics committee used a memo from Mr. Lucas stating he had felt threatened by Mr. Elder and Mr. O'Neil as evidence of misconduct. But Mr. Elder and Mr. O'Neil Jr. have said the letter was a fake.
The commissioners questioned whether the memo had been written after the fact. But Mr. Lucas' assistant, Jennifer Joy backed Mr. Lucas' statements that Mr. Elder and Mr. O'Neil had made her uncomfortable.
A couple of months after the ethics reports was released. Frederick County State's Attorney Scott Rolle said he had absolved Mr. Elder and Mr. O'Neil of criminal wrongdoing and questioned the objectivity of the ethics committee.
Mr. O'Neil said about a week before Mr. Lucas left, Ms. Joy also resigned. He said the timing of the resignations is curious.