Nash seeking clarity on lobbying rules after ethics decision

Oct. 5—Frederick Alderwoman Katie Nash will not challenge a decision by the city's Ethics Commission that some of her professional lobbying activities violated city rules in court and is seeking guidance for future work.

The Ethics Commission released a decision in September finding that Nash, a lobbyist registered with the state, improperly emailed coordinators for various city Neighborhood Advisory Councils and others, encouraging them to raise concerns with the county about plans to shift coverage of paramedic services in parts of the city.

Nash, D, was a paid lobbyist for the International Association of Firefighters Local 3666 when she sent out emails and press releases in June that were critical of the county's plans to move an advanced life support unit from its location on Montevue Lane to the new Northgate Fire Station on Thomas Johnson Drive that opened in June.

The decision found that Nash improperly asked the NAC coordinators to raise their concerns with the county, knowing that her position as an alderwoman would give the request added weight.

The commission noted that Nash testified that she was not specifically using the NACs to advocate for her client.

Rather, her email went to community leaders, some of whom happened to be NAC coordinators, Nash told the commission.

Nash also told the commission that her email did not use her city title or anything to give the idea that she was speaking on behalf of the city and that she "disclosed that she was speaking for a client."

County Executive Jan Gardner, D, filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission in June, in a personal rather than official capacity.

Nash wrote in an email to the News-Post on Tuesday that her attorney is preparing correspondence with the commission to clarify its guidance in the decision that Nash avoid engaging in any lobbying on matters with a "substantial direct effect" on city residents or services.

Nash's attorney, Paul Flynn, declined to comment when contacted Tuesday about what type of clarification he would seek.

Nash said she won't pursue any legal action to change the commission's decision.

"As it turns out, the only appeals process available in situations like this is to appeal in Court — dragging this out wouldn't be the best thing for the City or my family so we are not going to pursue that option," Nash wrote.

But the city's ethics ordinance is based closely on the state's applicable ethics law and doesn't provide for judicial review of a decision by the Ethics Commission, Acting City Attorney Rachel Nessen wrote in an email Tuesday.

"If someone wanted to appeal an Ethics Commission decision, that person would need to determine what type of action, if any, to file in court," Nessen wrote.

Nash wrote that she also followed up with the city's staff to ask that information about avoiding conflicts be made available to candidates when they file.

The Ethics Commission issued Nash an advisory opinion on Nov. 3, 2021, — the day after her election but before she was sworn in as an alderwoman. The commission warned that although the ethics ordinance didn't prohibit an elected official from working as a lobbyist, "it has the potential to raise several concerns."

Nash was elected with the most votes of any aldermanic candidate, becoming the president pro tem of the Board of Aldermen.

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