Testimony offered on Ho.Co. 7-23, Candidates for Village Board or Columbia Council in a Village of Columbia – Reports of Donations and Disbursements by Laura Mettle, Vice President of the LWV Howard County, 3320 Daisy Road, Woodbine, MD 21797
“FOR the purpose of requiring each village community association for a village of Columbia to require each candidate for election to the village board or the Columbia Council who receives donations or makes disbursements to file reports of the donations and disbursements with the village community association; requiring each village community association to make the reports of donations and disbursements available to the public; prohibiting a candidate for election to a village board or the Columbia Council who is elected from taking office if the candidate has failed to file a report of donations and disbursements; and generally relating to reports of donations and disbursements by candidates for village board or Columbia Council in a village of Columbia.”
Senator Lam, Delegate Watson, and the honorable members of the Howard County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly:
The League of Women Voters of Howard County’s position is, “Members of all public boards and commissions which have final or significant influence on policy and legislative decisions should file financial disclosure statements.” We support this bill in principle.
If Columbia were an incorporated city, it would be the second largest city in Maryland, with a population of over 105,000. The Columbia Association levies property taxes on real property covered by legal covenants, and provides primarily recreational services, amenities and infrastructure to residents in exchange. In FY 2022, the CA’s estimated revenue was over $70 million, while the assets under its control were estimated to be worth over $114 million. The association is governed by an elected board representing each of the 10 villages, who hire a city manager, and 10 separate village boards. The Columbia Association Board of Directors authorizes spending, makes policy, and enforces legal covenants affecting property located within its borders.
This bill addresses an issue that is not currently covered by the Association’s Ethics and Conflict of Interest policies, which do not specifically apply to members of the Village boards. As an elected governing body that manages millions of tax dollars contributed by residents and makes decisions affecting the property rights of those residents, it is appropriate that the members of the Columbia Association Board of Directors, and the members of any village boards that share that responsibility, be required to file financial reports on donations and disbursements and as do other local elected officials in Maryland, in order to promote transparency and prevent potential conflicts of interest.
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