3P calls for Penman to recuse himself.
Harford County Councilman Aaron Penman faces a conflict of interest as he prepares to vote on Bill 023-005, the Warehouse Moratorium. The councilman’s campaign manager in the 2022 election was Attorney Joseph Snee, who currently represents developers in two ongoing court cases against illegal warehouse development. The passage of this bill would severely impact both cases. In the Abingdon Woods warehouse development case, Snee represents the developers BTC III I-95 Logistics Center LLC and Harford Investors LLP. In the Perryman warehouse development case, Snee represents the developer Chesapeake Real Estate Group, LLC. As a result of this connection, Mr. Penman cannot make a decision that would serve the entire county’s best interests.
What’s more concerning is that only a few days after the council received Bill 23-005, Penman delivered a speech on February 14, 2023, saying that he “believed business and property owners would have an argument that their 5th amendment rights were violated for unlawfully taking of private property without proper compensation.” This argument mirrors what Mr. Penman‘s campaign manager Joe Snee had said in his testimony to the Perryman Moratorium on March 15, 2022. Snee argued that if imposed, the moratorium would violate the Takings Clause of the 5th amendment. The County would have to pay if it’s a permanent or temporary taking because you’re taking property without compensation, which is illegal.
It’s worth noting that Penman said he “can’t support legislation that infringes on property rights” when it comes to development supported by his campaign manager. However, he is a cosponsor on Bill 23-006, which would prohibit townhouses in R1 zoning under NRD (Natural Resource District). Penman can’t support a bill that would temporarily impact the developers and landowners his campaign manager represents. However, he can support a bill that would permanently impact other landowners.
Although Mr. Penman claims he’s “no lawyer,” the conflict of interest in this situation is clear. It feels inappropriate for Mr. Penman to vote on this bill when his campaign manager represents the developers of the projects most impacted by this moratorium.
Councilman Penman should recuse himself from voting on the Warehouse Moratorium bill. It’s essential that our elected officials prioritize the county’s interests, not their personal relationships or political connections. The councilman’s connection to Attorney Joseph Snee and his representation of developers with a vested interest in the outcome of this bill presents a clear conflict of interest. It would be best if Councilman Penman recuses himself from this vote to preserve the integrity of Harford County’s government.
It’s up to the residents of Harford County to hold their elected officials accountable. We must demand transparency and ethical conduct from our representatives. The integrity of our government depends on it. We need to speak up and demand that our elected officials act with integrity and put the interests of their constituents above their personal interests and connections.
Speech made by Greg to the Council on 3/14/2023