Aberdeen, Md., mayor's baseball stadium trip to Augusta spurs ethics complaint

A challenger in the Aberdeen, Md., mayor’s race has filed an ethics complaint against Mayor Michael Bennett over Bennett’s Oct. 3 visit to Augusta to promote a downtown baseball stadium here.

Speaking to a small group of Augusta Rotarians, Bennett defended his city’s 2002 decision to build a stadium for the Aberdeen Ironbirds, a Ripken Baseball-owned team in Cal Ripken’s hometown.

“You can’t go wrong,” Bennett remarked of Augusta’s proposal to spend public money on construction of a downtown stadium for the Ripken-owned Augusta GreenJackets.

Patrick McGrady, who is running against Bennett for mayor, alleged several violations of Aberdeen’s ethics code in his complaint, a copy of which was forwarded to The Augusta Chronicle.

The allegations center on whether Ripken’s purchase of McGrady’s plane ticket to Augusta constituted a gift or compensation for contract work.

Either way, Bennett’s Augusta visit, in which he represented himself as Aberdeen mayor, violated the city’s ethics code, which requires him to disclose in advance activities that benefit him personally, McGrady said.

McGrady also asked the ethics commission to investigate whether Bennett was an employee of the firm with which Aberdeen has a contract, Ripken Baseball.

Reached Tuesday, McGrady said he had received no response to his Oct. 14 complaint. He said he forwarded his concerns to a Maryland special prosecutor who investigates ethics violations.

A spokesman for Bennett said the mayor was in meetings all afternoon and could not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Aberdeen City Manager Doug Miller said in an e-mail that he and the chair of the ethics commission received the complaint but that no decision had been made.

Several Augusta commissioners reached Tuesday said they were unaware of McGrady’s complaint or of a letter he sent warning about the financial difficulties Aberdeen has encountered since construction of the Ironbirds stadium.

GreenJackets owners try to save downtown stadium plan
Read past stories on the downtown stadium plan
Read the ethics complaint

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