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Del. Jones: No Conflict on Pension Bill

State delegate sponsors pension bill for the county and is deputy director of Baltimore County Department of Human Resources.

Proposed state legislation to change Baltimore County's pension rules is attracting as much attention for who sponsored the bill as for what it would do.

Del. Adrienne Jones, a long-time Baltimore County employee, is currently the deputy director of the county's Office of Human Resources. She is also the lone sponsor of a pension bill that her boss—County Executive Kevin Kamenetz—wants.

Instead of using more traditional routes to propose legislation, Kamenetz asked Jones to file the bill because of her expertise with the subject. As speaker pro tem of the House of Delegates, Jones' position and reputation could also provide an added benefit to the bill's success.   

The close connection between the bill and Jones' government employer has raised some eyebrows about the delegate's sponsorship of the bill—even though Jones has followed General Assembly rules for such potentially sticky situations.

Those same ethics rules would generally prohibit legislators from being involved with bills that benefit their employers. Lawmakers who work for county governments are given more leeway.

The bill could by overturning a court ruling that said the county was charging too much for a penalty on pensions to retirees who transfered their state pension time into the county retirement system.

"Kamenetz is using Adrienne to get this bill through," said Del. Susan Aumman, a Timonium Republican who serves with Jones on the House Appropriations Committee. "Just the fact that this is happening is questionable."

"I think it's a conflict of interest when you have a county employee putting in a bill that directly affects the county," said Aumann. "Why doesn't the county put their own bill in? I think it's a problem."

In an interview, Jones said she does not have a conflict of interest, often getting emotional when explaining the steps she has taken to avoid such criticism. 

"I've filed all the necessary forms," said Jones, a Democrat from Woodstock.

She said she has filed the appropriate disclaimer and disclosure forms with the General Assembly's ethics attorney that state potential conflicts of interest and certify that a lawmaker can make independent decisions on related bills.

Jones said during the interview with Patch that she knows that she was getting "defensive" and "emotional"—at one point she appeared as if she were on the verge of tears—when explaining why she believes that she has no conflict of interest related to this legislation.

"This is the first time in 35 years anyone has questioned my integrity," said Jones, who later added that she is further removed from conflicts of interest because she is on unpaid leave from Baltimore County while she serves in the House of Delegates.

At the heart of the issue is a bill that Don Mohler, a spokesman for the county, said is "an important piece of legislation that has a fiscal impact to the county."

The legislation, if passed, would affect how the county calculates reductions in pension benefits for some state employees who bring their pensions with them when they work for the county.

State law requires that the county count the employee's time in the state pension system as county time even though the employee doesn't contribute to the state system.

In Baltimore County, employees contribute a percentage of their salary toward their retirement benefits. State law allows the county to reduce the final pension benefit to adjust for years when payments weren't made plus 5 percent interest compounded annually.

Currently, the county reduces the payments by nearly 8 percent interest compounded monthly—which nearly doubles the reductions to affected employees.

A Harford County Circuit Court judge, a county Board of Appeals ruling and an opinion from the Office of the Attorney General, all say the county interest rate is too high.

The bill sponsored by Jones would overturn the Harford County Court decision even as the county is appealing to the state Court of Appeals. If the county is allowed to move forward with the 8 percent calculation it would save as much as $400,000 annually.

But the bill is being handled differently than typical legislation deemed a priority by the county.

First, the bill is being sponsored by Jones alone. Most legislation requested by the county is sponsored by the chair of the House or the Senate delegation and marked "by the request of the administration."

The county also typically files identical legislation in both the House and the Senate.

This year, the three major pieces of Kamenetz's legislative priority list were filed in both the House and Senate through the respective leaders of those delegations.

Last year the House and Senate delegations sponsored three such bills, including laws that increased liquor licenses and miscellaneous business licenses.

This year's pension bill is filed only in the House of Delegates where it was sent to the Appropriations Committee—a committee Jones serves on and where she is a member of a subcommittee on pension issues.

Mohler, the county spokesman, said the county asked Jones to sponsor the bill because she "is very well respected and understands the issue."

William Somerville, an ethics lawyer to the General Assembly, said state ethics law is more flexible for legislators who work for county governments.

"It's more lenient than would be the case with a private sector employer," said Somerville, adding that legislators who work for local governments are encouraged not to participate in legislation that "directly affects them or the structure of their departments."

Jones is not directly affected by the bill.

The differences in how the bill is being handled, however, have raised eyebrows among some legislators, some of whom privately questioned Jones' involvement based solely on the potential for an appearance issue.

Aumann, who served with Jones on an ethics committee that reviewed violations by Sen. Ulysses Currie, said the ethics issue "has everyone's antenna up and it should."

"Something smells bad," said Aumann. "Something's weird."

lemmy winks March 01, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Gee...I wonder why Mr. Kamenentz didn't ask any of the other members of the county legislative delegation to sponsor this bill....Ms. Jones couldn't explain this bill to you if you gave her a week to do so. They are simply using this lady as a shill, and she of course is handsomely paid at the county for doing nothing. As a comment on the Sun site indicated, why doesn't someone now propose a bill in the county council to take away the illegal double pensions of Kamenetz, Moxley and Gardina! Won't someone from the Administration even comment on this debacle!
RARE MARYLAND INDEPENDENT March 02, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Deputy Director Of Human Resources. Sounds like an important job. How can one hold this high level position and be able to take the time off for these lawmaking sessions? This makes no sense. I know many people work hard for the state - they should really be angry. The lack of morals of these politicians never ceases to amaze me. How could any one of us with morals specifically set up sweet heart deals just for us (on the taxpayers dime), but then go to these measures to try to take things from people just to save $400,000. You cannot tell me they can't find $400,000 somewhere else. We may be better off if we would agree to pay these people as long as they propose nothing. Stop doing damage to our county!
RARE MARYLAND INDEPENDENT March 02, 2012 at 12:43 AM
When will they get to the business of the county. Everythng has to be about building the base or lining their pockets. Terrible!
Buck Harmon March 02, 2012 at 01:20 AM
Agree..
Jimmy March 02, 2012 at 02:34 AM
HMMM, This doesn't directly benefit her to do this? Let's see, she holds a position that was APPOINTED by the County Executive....lets see if we can listen in to their conversation...you sponsor the bill and you can keep your county job...
RARE MARYLAND INDEPENDENT March 02, 2012 at 04:34 AM
I used to believe that our esteemed politicians were up to their transgender and gay marriage nonsense just to take up time in the sessions. This would enable them to stuff their pockets, set up their sweatheart pensions for themselves and increase taxes on the very last day and head out town. Then they could use the defense of "sorry, session is out, time to move forward, I do have another job you know." I am wrong. I believe they are so brazen, they don't care and have no problem doing this in the public eye. They know The Baltimore Sun will write a brief editorial, but will not follow up on these matters as they are Democrats. The local news media is more concerned about Leap Year Babies and Tulips coming up early instead on real news. I keep waiting for a politician to run on a platform such as "Vote for me so I can get paid." If they are a Democrat in this state it may just work!!
hmj March 02, 2012 at 01:06 PM
This is the result of out of control spending by the Gov and his far left friends in the Generally Assembly. Shift the burden wasteful spending to others. Taxes are already too high on law biding taxpayers. Just say no to those Dems that want to spend more and more on welfare programs for freeloaders and deadbeats.
COUNTY EMPLOYEE March 02, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Kamenent is a one term official. He has lined his own pockets and the pockets of his friends and now the rest of the county employees will pay. $400,000...all county cars are NOW eqipped with G.P.S , after NEW cell phones were given and only after NEW computers sounds like the money has already been spent.
ddbs00 March 02, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Rare MD Ind: We're pretty much already there. When Ulysses Currie went on trial for corruption his defense was basically that he was stupid to know any better, and it worked. Now that his legal problems are behind him and his "penalty" from an ethics investigation was to be slapped on the wrist and for him to be removed from several committees he'll go right back to doing what he was doing that got him in trouble in the first place and he'll get re-elected for as long as he wants to remain in office. Maryland has truly turned into an Idiocracy.
John March 02, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Wasn't it State Senator Joseph Staszak, who owned a bar (Joes Tavern) and was voting on legislation concerning liquor laws. When asked if he didn't it was a conflict of interest, he said..."doesn't conflict with my interests"...he didn't set the bar too high!!
John March 02, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Wasn't it State Senator Joseph Staszak, who owned a bar (Joes Tavern) and was voting on legislation concerning liquor laws. When asked if he didn't it was a conflict of interest, he said..."doesn't conflict with my interests"...he didn't set the bar too high!!
DHAMMER March 03, 2012 at 12:24 PM
This bill would save 400,000 annually?Are they kidding!!! All the money that this County blows away needlessly every WEEK. Paying for Red Lite Cameras ,Speed Cameras,making Towson a ShowPlace.Make's you wonder what the reason really is to take something away from a person who has been a dedicated Government Worker.The only ones who keep their Bennies intact are the Politicians who take them away and that includes Kamenetz and O'Mally and the Democratic Machine that OWNS this County and State.
Emma Norton March 03, 2012 at 04:19 PM
the fire union needs to have a public protest...they need to stand in front of Kamenetzs' office and draw attention to this issue .....only then will the media give this issue the coverage it deserves! to add, i must say that i think it's pathetic that our media has yet to get a comment from Kamenetz himself rather than his spokesperson. the editorials and news articles that have been published thus far have certainly opened up the can of worms repeatedly, but for some unforseen reason, NONE of the broadcasters in media/TV or even our own infamous "investigative reporter" Jane Miller want to go fishing! That's pathetic journalism....I guess if you haven't murdered someone, stolen from children or slept with someone it's not new worthy! I personally have written Jane Miller, C4 on WBAL radio, Lepola of Fox45 and Knezevich of the Sunpaper. It's unheard of...the total disregard for these brazen acts of unethical political power!
Emma Norton March 03, 2012 at 04:27 PM
read the attached document on the last page--hidden after what appears to be the end of the document is a small paragraph showing the benefits being collected by Kamenetz and his top administration. Is everyone aware that Kamenetz retired for ONE DAY, and as a result is collecting a sweetheart pension at our expense! Let's refresh our memories and insist on better coverage...political greed, unethical misconduct and corruption!
Emma Norton March 03, 2012 at 04:43 PM
sorry...forgot to add to my post http://towson.patch.com/articles/public-safety-employees-reap-benefits-of-drop
jane costello March 04, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Hate, hate and more hate. You hate it when they spend ,you hate it when they try and cut, the only constant is your hate. If you worked for McCormick, retired and then went to work for the county are you or are you not entitled to collect your pension and get paid by the county. So, if you apply the same logic there is nothing illegal or wrong. Please name one, just one appointment that isn't qualified. You may hate them but their qualified for their position. Better than "robo Bob's" ice skater.
RARE MARYLAND INDEPENDENT March 05, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Jane: What should happen. The county should ask (beg) some of the best non partisan Certified Public Accountants, Tax Attorneys, and Actuaries to make the very difficult choices of balancing the county budgets and empower them to make the best decisions. They should serve a four year term at a salary of about $150,000 per year in order to get the best group of people. This would provide a salary comparable to what they are making in the private sector and four years later they are done and able to go back into the provide sector. They will be given the power to make binding decisions on certain matters. The current group of appointees only experience is one of fleecing the taxpayers at all costs. Graduating with non technical college degrees does not qualify you to make financial decisions for the county, etc. Sorry, facts are the facts.
Paul Amirault March 05, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Any CPA worth his/her salt is non-partisan by definition, if performing in a professional capacity. If not, he/she should give up their license. I would say that 100% of CPA's would agree. That is based on my experience.
jane costello March 05, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Triple aaa bond rating, no layoffs,no furloughs,lowest county employment in 25 years, no tax increases in 25 years- and you want to to hire $150k personnel- I think they're doing ok without that- Tell me again which appointment is unqualified for their position, please name one,just one.
RARE MARYLAND INDEPENDENT March 06, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Any appointee involved in the financial matters of Baltimore County should be either a CPA, a CFP, or a CMA. Or, they should be a JD with a tax law background. The quesitions involved in the interview process should assure that the candidate has a working knowledge of GAAP, and knowledge in financial reporting as it relates in the government. If you don't know what these designations are or what GAAP is - you are not qualified. Someone with a humanities or history degree simply has no business involved in the financial matters of the county. Where the county was and where it is going are two different matters. Demographics are not favorable for many county areas. Professionals confident in their abilities could hopefully slow some of KK's pension shenanigans. Patronage jobs and quickie deals on the DL can not longer be accepted. PUBLIC SERVICE is exactly that. Career politicians who rig the game with sweetheart pension deals on taxpayer money at the expense of both taxpayers and loyal county employees must be exposed and voted out. If they wish to be paid, be a rainmaker in private industry. PUBLIC SERVICE is NOT PRIVATE INDUSTRY and they should not be compensated that way. If they would like to do so, join private industry and sweat collecting your A/R like the rest of us in an effort to make some money. Worry about making your payroll, worry about the business you service - is someone else trying to take their business away from me? They don't want to do this
jane costello March 06, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Wow, are you a politician because your sure can't answer the question. I'll try again, NAME 1, ANYONE THAT WAS APPOINTED THAT WAS NOT QUALIFIED FOR THE POSITION. You are really hung up on acronyms but won't answer the question. Again, what pension shenanigans, did you read my McCormick example. Tell me why it doesn't apply. You may not like it but it's not illegal. Now please answer the question.
RARE MARYLAND INDEPENDENT March 06, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Jane, sorry you cannot see it. Yes, designations are important. It means you have met specific levels of expertise. Does not matter where you went to school, who your parents are, etc. I have viewed the good delegates education and work history. Readers can also view and make their own decisions as to why this bill is being sponsored now by her - and if she understands it. Admit it Jane, if this was under a Republican regime, the marches would be on. No, not a politician at all. Would never play the game for anyone. Republicans and Democrats would hate me as I would put the benefit of the entire county first instead of trying to identify victims to exploit and not hide the facts of what is really going on in the county.
Gditty March 07, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Really. People are complaining that adriene introduced a bill that takes another step at some much needed public pension reform and you are complaining. Really. Nice job delegate jones. Keep up the good work.
jane costello March 08, 2012 at 12:54 AM
To RMI, I guess you have trouble answering direct questions and just like to "pontificate" so I'll try for a 3'rd time. I hope you can understand the question. Please name 1 only 1 appointment that wasn't qualified for the position. It really isn't a difficult question why do you continue to avoid it?
Dalphatrain July 11, 2012 at 05:51 AM
What don't you do your homework instead of calling people crooks genius. She has a great record. Why don't you do some research if that's not too hard for you.
Dalphatrain July 11, 2012 at 06:00 AM
Ah nope not angry but here's a tissue for you. Oh and maybe some violin music and some cheese to go with your wine. The session is 90 days, There is 365 days in a year. Do the math. She's not the only county worker who is a State Legislator.
Dalphatrain July 11, 2012 at 06:06 AM
Unpaid leave for 90 days. Did you read the article Matt old boy?
FIFA July 11, 2012 at 11:27 AM
You asked Jane, and I'm sure RMI can answer for himself and he probably doesn't need/want my help, but here goes. Mr. Barry Williams, Director of Recreation & Parks, was not qualified for the appointment.
Dalphatrain July 11, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Ok FiFA, Why is Barrty Williams not qualified. Do you know the qualifications? He was the Director of Workforce Development prior to his appointment and he is doing a great job. Enlighten us on your analogy.

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