Update: Ethics Board Dismisses Findings Against Beach Patrol Chief

Ethics Board drops case against Ocean City Beach Patrol Operations Director Tom Mullineaux.

Update: The following story originally posted Thursday includes additional information on the Ethics Board reviewing its original findings and finding "no violation."


With an Administrative Law appeal hearing scheduled to start on Friday, the Ocean City Ethics Board announced on Thursday that it will give up on an ethics case against Ocean City Beach Patrol Operations Director Tom Mullineaux.

The board voted Aug. 20 to "vacate and dismiss" its findings against Mullineaux, according to news release issued Thursday by the city. (See attached PDF for a copy of the resolution.)

The Ethics Board issued findings in 2009 of two alleged ethics violations by Mullineaux related to changing scores on lifeguard requalification tests. Mullineaux was fined $100 for each violation. He immediately appealed the findings.

The Ethics Board investigation was the result of an extensive complaint filed by former Ocean City Beach Patrol lifeguard Mike Hamilton, who accepted  in August 2011. As part of the settlement agreement, Hamilton was required to withdraw all complaints the city.

"After pre-trial discovery started, the Ethics Board accepted the withdrawal of the complaint filed by Mr. Hamilton, vacated its prior findings against Operations Chief Mullineaux, and amended its final report to reflect the vacation of any finding of a violation by Operations Chief Mullineaux," the city said in its news release.

In a Sept. 5 letter from Ocean City Ethics Board Chairperson Joan Farrell to Mayor Jay Gillian (see attached PDF), Farrell says a review of the original findings in preparation for the appeal revealed that "no violation of the City of Ocean City Code of Ethics Section 2-15.5.B exists."

Mullineaux could not be reached for comment.

Farrell said Thursday that it's board policy not to speak with the media. She is unable to explain what changed in the Ethics Boards two reviews of the complaint. An amended final written report on the case has not been filed yet.

"It is what it is," Hamilton said Thursday upon learning of the dismissal. "What transpired transpired. I think the Ethics Board was acting on good information to do what they did."

Hamilton had filed ethics complaints against former Ocean City Fire Chief Joseph Foglio and Mullineaux in January 2009 that alleged, in part, that some guards were allowed back onto the patrol without meeting the requalification standards. The ethics complaints also alleged that Mullineaux and Foglio manipulated test results to give preferential treatment to family and friends.

The complaint included hundreds of pages of documentation and nine separate accusations of nepotism and cronyism.

Hamilton's complaints included an allegation that Foglio used his influence to have his daughter hired by the beach patrol. While Hamilton offered documentation from the competitive tryout to support his case, the city's Ethics Board ultimately ruled that "the complaint has no reasonable factual basis" because the hiring criteria included a subjective interview. 

The only two parts of the complaint originally upheld by the Ethics Board were that Mullineaux waived physical requalification tests for certain returning Ocean City Beach Patrol employees in 2007, including himself, and that he falsified documents that included the results of timed swimming requalification tests. Mullineaux allegedly directed an OCBP employee to add notations next to names that had no recorded swim time.

The Ethics Board investigation was based largely on interviews with eight then current and former Ocean City Beach Patrol employees, who were allowed to remain anonymous, according to the final report of the Ethics Board dated Sept. 15, 2009. (See attached PDF for complete text of the final report and findings.)

The Ethics Board upheld the two claims and recommended minimum fines of $100 apiece. Mullineaux appealed the ruling. And with the Ethics Board's dismissal of the findings and proclamation that there never was an ethics violation, Mullineaux's name is now cleared.

Administrative Law Judge Bruce M. Gorman said the appeal hearing scheduled for Friday was adjourned because the parties told him that they were trying to negotiate a settlement, according to Office of Administrative Law spokesperson Randye Bloom.

Gorman indicated he does not have any documents, nor were any possible terms discussed with him, Bloom said. The case will be pending in Administrative Law Court until any settlement is finalized and recorded.

It remains unclear if Mullineaux, 65, will retain the seasonal job next year or retire.

The prospect of the appeal and the potential cost of legal representation to defend the city's decision almost led to the disbanding of the Ethics Board.

City Council voted 6-1 in January 2012 on the first reading of an ordinance that would have eliminated the Ethics Board. Council members cited the immediate legal bill for the Mullineaux appeal and the prospect of having no way to determine future legal expenses. Council argued that the board is not a necessity. A state board serves the same function.

But following public outcry and an appeal from Mayor Jay Gillian, three council members changed their votes. The ordinance was defeated, 4-3, on a second reading in March.

Beth White, of Chance & McCann in Bridgeton, represents the Ethics Board in the case, but her office said Thursday that she will have no comment.

chuck betson September 07, 2012 at 12:39 AM
how do you sleep at night mike whoops forgot on your $50,000 pillow courtesy of the taxpayers
chuck betson September 07, 2012 at 12:48 AM
obese have u looked the mirror lately any by the way you are welcome to call into my talk show tomorrow when we dicsuss ocean city issues on friday nights on wond radio 1400
Michael Hamilton September 07, 2012 at 01:34 AM
The City did not have to settle, but obviously they did not want to take their chances in court. It is a shame that the settlement amount could not have been directed toward the individuals responsible for the situation. Like the the man said, "the stupidity of supervisors" . There is a real possibility that similar settlements for similar reasons, will be forthcoming. Feel good, look good and I sleep just fine Charles, because I work-out and do sports, which is obviously a foreign concept to you.
Michael Hamilton September 07, 2012 at 02:04 AM
"any by the way"...... Man if you had to write for a living Charles, you would loose weight fast. Why would I call Joke Radio? Nobody listens to blah, blah, blah. Maybe if you forgot about the sports stuff and did something meaningful, like promoting "life-long active/healthy lifestyles", proper diet, avoiding drug and alcohol use/abuse, you actually would do some good and maybe get people to tune in.
Ed Price September 07, 2012 at 12:57 PM
It is clear to me a deal was CUT! I'll bet there is much to more to this being dropped! Hamilton gets 50K and Mullineaux gets a 50% raise! WOW.....what do the taxpayers get? Silence........ oh and remember that Betson was a member of the beach patrol and his son still is! Not sure how to wake people up, maybe they really don't want to be awakened!
Ed Price September 07, 2012 at 12:58 PM
I wish Mullineaux would come forward with the DIRT he has!
chuck betson September 07, 2012 at 01:19 PM
ed the only dirt tom has is what was thrown all over his reputation ed. the ethics committee is dangerous ed; dangerous to all taxpayers with its lack of culpability. and yes i am a proud former member of the ocbp. there was no deal cut; just poor judegment by the ethics committee and the decision it rendered in the first place.
vic September 07, 2012 at 01:36 PM
mullineaux was not found not guilty by the ethics board. the case was just dropped.
Ed S September 07, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Actually, to me the most shocking about this was that taxpayers pay for part-time lifeguards to get pensions. I had no idea that a part-time summer job came with a taxpayer funded pension.
phylomfret September 07, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Mike Hamilton...You said it all and quite well! Thanks
Parker Miller September 07, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Chuckie, I assume you did not attend the Ethics Board hearings or follow the testimony in the papers. It is my understanding that there were definite age discrimination, therefore the uncontested settlement with Mr. Hamilton, and sworn testimony that test results were fudged in after an OPRA request for the annual test results arrived. Did Mr. Millineaux also give the grading in you writing skills class?
janet sellers September 07, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Chuck you really should be ashamed of yourself!! I'll be sure to tell my friends to never listen to you talk show since clearly you have no idea what it is your talking about! Ha your son is a guard! Maybe his qualifications were altered! and that's why your so outraged! It's pretty clear! Grow up...it's sad
Eric Sauder September 07, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Thank you Vic.
chuck betson September 07, 2012 at 07:04 PM
parker if that was the case then why was the case dropped. actually i wrote 10 years for a newspaper and I'll match my writing skills with yours any time. Mr. Hamilton could not complete the running portion of the test and that is why he was not hired. the bottom line here is we have an ethics committe operating outside the jurisdiction of the city; yet leaves the city quite vulnerable with its decisions. this is more than about the mullineaux case; this is about liability to the City of Ocean City. Janet: my son is a model lifeguard and has twice been honored by the Mayor and once by the City Council. You tell me why the ethics committe acted the way it did and now will not even comment. this is very dangerous.
CTA September 07, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Wow, this is turning a pretty good example of. "not playing well together". Folks, it's over, The case is closed, what's done is done, Time to move on...........lets just enjoy the sept surf and sun........
Mr. B September 07, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Simple question Chuck. "The only two parts of the complaint upheld by the Ethics Board were that Mullineaux waived physical requalification tests for certain returning Ocean City Beach Patrol employees in 2007, including himself, and that he falsified documents that included the results of timed swimming requalification tests. Mullineaux allegedly directed an OCBP employee to add notations next to names that had no recorded swim time." ----- is the above statement true?
Paul Mangen September 07, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Ed, OCBP lifeguards are not part-time, they are seasonal. They work 40+ hours a week which is full time and their pensions are supported by dues taken out of their paychecks.
Paul Mangen September 07, 2012 at 10:50 PM
If you were sitting on North Street, with two rookie guards on the 4th of July and left 30-45min. early because you wanted to beat the traffice, because you lived off the island, and you were a Senior Guard?Would that be unethical? what if you were reading newspapers at a lifeguard headquarters, leaving your stand partner alone and when your supervisor directed you to go back to your beach and you refused? Would that be insubordination?
Ed Price September 08, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Yeah, That is what the city always says...."let's move on"...they said it in the former solicitor's overbillings...the former mayors, "Pay to play" issues, the current public defender's overbillings and "pay to play issues"......and the taxpayers keep paying and paying and paying....moving on is costing us more and more and more...
Ed Price September 08, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Hey...let's all remember we LOST our certification for the OCBP....but the head of the OCBP got a raise (50%).....no deal here, right?
Paul Mangen September 08, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Ed, since the OCBP lost "its" certification did the beaches close? The head of the OCBP manages an organization that have 5 levels, 150-180 people that spans at least 8 months of work, pretty large budgetary responsibility as well. The city took those factors, as well as equivalent agencies and their compensation into consideration. BTW, how many people have drowned on a guarded beach in Ocean City since 2001?
Eric Sauder September 08, 2012 at 02:30 AM
I have a problme with this statement ... "the city's Ethics Board ultimately ruled that 'the complaint has no reasonable factual basis' because the hiring criteria included a subjective interview." What are we saying here?
Paul Mangen September 08, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Eric, there is an interview for the job. The answers are subjective, like most job interviews. You could have an applicant that killed the swim, row, and run but cannot effectively communicate. PR and communication are very important aspects of lifeguarding and lifesaving.
Eric Sauder September 09, 2012 at 04:41 AM
I appreciate your response Paul and I understand what you're saying but I see it differently. To me it means that jobs are handed out not on the basis of how well qualified a candidate is to do the job (or even if the candidate is qualified) but on a subjective basis (like who you are or who you know or whether I think you're cute). Isn't that the problem? What the Ethics Commission is apparently stating is that it is not material that people were hired either without qualifying or that test results were falsified in order to hire them since the hiring decision is, in the final analysis, a subjective one. And it's OK that it works that way.
Eric Sauder September 09, 2012 at 04:46 AM
So is the ability to physically perform the job.
Eric Sauder September 10, 2012 at 04:23 PM
I defended our local ethics board on the basis of what it could do for this City and not for anything it did do. It has so much potential but that potential is not being realized. Like every other board it is appointed by city government and I think is controlled by city government. Councilman Hartzell stated that it is “a feel good board”. I’m inclined now to agree with him, especially in regard to this one. In the length of its tenure I’m not aware of anything it has accomplished. Yet I would still defend having an ethics commission on principle. It’s unfortunate that this one hasn’t lived up to its potential.
Eric Sauder September 10, 2012 at 04:27 PM
And I don't feel good about it.
Sam Lavner September 10, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Eddie is spot on. But none of the behavior he underscores is mitigated or remedied by this particular Ethics Board. Not the idea of an Ethics Board, but the reality of this Board. If anything, in this case and all others to date, the Board unecessarily puts the city at risk of litigation. It does nothing to prevent that and plenty to promote it. It has way too much power over our government officials' lives and taxpayers' costs, especially considering that there is virtually no meaningful selection process or oversight, and little training. And, the admin and council have no inclination to improve that situation - a dangerous situation that must either be elminated (my preference) or improved upon. And it can be improved upon with some dedicated study, practicable recommendations, and implementation.
Eric Sauder September 10, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Sam are you making your statement in regard to this case?
Shoobie Doobie Doo February 27, 2013 at 04:19 PM
Hey Chuck sounds like you are part of the problem. Former employee, still stroking all the right egos, maybe to keep your kid on the job! How much is your PENSION from the TAXPAYERS? Ah, while you are at it I am surprised that you haven't blamed the shoobies yet! Maybe the shoobies should stay home so the beaches are not crowded and then they won't have to worry about bringing back so many guards! or better yet reduce some of the nepotism.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something