The Wrong Foot Forward
Most government entities have some sort of ethics ordinance that is generally intended to ensure the elected officials in that area act appropriately and disclose matters that may impact their positions of power.
In theory, these types of ordinances make sense. However, the State of Maryland has overstepped its authority once again by extending the provisions of the ethics ordinance to include all county employees, in addition to elected officials.
The recent mandate requires a lifetime ban on all county employees and elected officials from working for a company that does business with the county. The state once again shows that it is clueless in matters of employment.
This single provision severely limits the career opportunities and earning potential for almost all of its current employees. Furthermore, this will put a significant strain on future recruiting efforts. What person in his/her right mind would agree to not work for hundreds, if not thousands, of local employers?
The new ordinance also eliminates a vast majority of the candidate pool for elected positions. Many prospective candidates will have to self-disqualify because they won’t be able to take the financial hit of either not being able to work while serving in a part-time elected capacity, or will not be able to tolerate limiting their employment opportunities upon leaving office.
Our government was built on the foundation of being by and for the people. The State of Maryland has taken this foundation and made such a stringent change that it will eliminate almost all qualified candidates who are professionals in their respective fields.
We all know that elections have consequences, but are we prepared to be governed by a whole body without any business experience and acumen? Who do you think will run if they can’t work in their field after leaving office? Are we interested in electing the lowest common denominator of unemployed and/or unskilled workers to lead our county, or worse, “career” politicians?
It is common for certain industries to have employees sign non-compete clauses. In most cases, a non-compete agreement prohibits the individual from working for a competitor for a period of time. The industry standard is one year. Prior to the changes, a similar provision applied to elected officials and required that there be a one-year break between leaving office and participating in certain business entities and projects.
One year is a reasonable amount of time for elected officials. County employees in non-contracting and non-fiduciary positions should have a continued at-will employment relationship that allows them to work for whomever best benefits their professional goals and financial needs. The state needs to reconsider its mandate and make the appropriate changes before it’s too late.