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Baltimore County Council chair would let Kamenetz veto stand

Kevin Kamenetz

Baltimore County Executive Kevin B. Kamenetz.  (Max Franz/The Daily Record)

The chairwoman of the Baltimore County Council said she is willing to let County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s veto of a development bill stand.

Democratic Councilwoman Cathy Bevins Thursday said she believes there are not enough votes on the seven-member council to override the county executive.

“I’m willing to let it stand,” Bevins said in a phone interview. “The thought is that I am not willing to put anything into law that could create an ethical issue.”

Kamenetz Wednesday announced that he would veto a bill that changed the definition of a public benefit within the Planned Unit Development laws that he helped craft in 2010. The county executive cited ethical concerns raised by County Attorney Michael Field.

In a letter to Kamenetz, Field wrote that while he could not say that the legislation was illegal, it raised concerns that allowing developers to contribute money to projects or other needs could run afoul of ethics rules that prohibit public officials from soliciting gifts for the benefit of themselves or others.

Councilmembers in Baltimore County have a significant amount of input at the beginning and end of the Planned Unit Development process.

“In my opinion, the community benefit to be allowed under bill 54-15 looks more like a gift than the kind of community benefit envisioned in the PUD law,” Field wrote. “It, at the very least, does not comport with the spirit and intent of the Baltimore County Ethics law. It’s use could give rise to complaints to the ethics commission, which would which would then have to balance the county’s right to enact its own development law against state law requirements for local elected officials.”

Bevins, who voted in favor of the bill along with her six colleagues, said Field never expressed these views to her. She said she and other councilmembers believed they had addressed some concerns about the bill with amendments tightening where the money could go.

In the end, she said that if the council had not fully addressed the issue she was willing to let Kamenetz’s veto stand.

The council needs five votes to override a veto. Bevins said she has spoken to other members who she said hold similar views to hers and does not believe there are enough votes to overturn Kamenetz’s decision.

“I just did my first PUD,” said Bevins, who is in her second term. “I was happy with the current law.”