This story was updated at 2:55 p.m. Feb. 3, 2023, to include comment from County Council President Evan Glass. It was updated at 5:55 p.m. to include further comments from Kristin Mink.
In the face of criticism, County Councilmember Kristin Mink (D-Dist. 5) has requested an ethics review after she called a Montgomery County Police District commander about a flat tire on her vehicle, shortly after leaving a community meeting in her district. She says she “regrets” making the call.
FOP Lodge 35 President Lee Holland pointed to the call as a sign of hypocrisy on the part of Mink, who recently called for traffic enforcement to be shifted from the police department to the county Department of Transportation, in an effort to stop systemic racism.
Holland, talking with WJLA, which first reported Mink’s call to the commander, said, “We have more pressing issues than dealing with changing a council member’s tire.”
Community members on social media also criticized the councilmember. Mink confirmed via text that her office has sent a letter to the county’s Ethics Commission about what occurred Wednesday night.
In response to some residents and Holland calling her actions hypocritical, Mink wrote the following in a text to MoCo360 on Friday evening:
“I have called for reducing police traffic stops by shifting day-to-day speed enforcement and non-public-safety issues like expired tags to automated cameras and/or under the purview of the Department of Transportation where police response is not needed. I would never suggest removing police from any type of response without shifting responsibility to another appropriate entity. Contacting the police to address an immediate road safety issue – a car blocking a traffic lane, in this case – is not in conflict with any of my policy positions.”
Mink tweeted Thursday evening about the incident. She wrote in her tweet that she was attending an East County Citizens Advisory Board meeting in Briggs Chaney on Wednesday night. David McBain, the county’s police commander for the third district, was in attendance, along with several other officers, she wrote.
About three blocks down Briggs Chaney Road, Mink said she got a flat tire. She came to a stop in the left-turn lane, where there was no shoulder. The Councilmember contacted her husband, who called AAA for a tow truck.
Mink wrote that for safety reasons, she felt she needed to get out of the roadway quickly because she was blocking a lane of traffic. Because McBain and other officers were likely close by, she called to let them know about her flat tire, she said. Officers later arrived to inflate her tire enough so that she could make a U-turn and drive to a parking lot three blocks away, before getting her vehicle towed by AAA and taking a bus home.
“I called an officer I thought might be nearby because I was concerned that my vehicle was posing an active hazard in the roadway, but in hindsight, I should have just contacted the police through the non-emergency number,” Mink wrote.
County Council President Evan Glass (D-At-large) provided the following statement to MoCo360:
“As Council President, I hold my colleagues up to the highest standard of ethical and moral conduct. The Council takes all potential ethics violations extremely seriously and follows standard procedures to ensure accountability in all instances. The Office of the Inspector General and Ethics Office are authorized to investigate any improprieties or violations with our laws and codes of conduct.”
Representatives from the MCPD and the FOP did not immediately respond Friday to requests for comment.
Some residents on social media had called on Mink to ask the county’s Ethics Commission or Inspector General to investigate the incident to determine if there are any ethical violations.
The Ethics Commission consists of five members who work to “promote the public’s trust of County government and to ensure the impartiality of County employees, including elected officials, in the execution of their responsibilities,” according to its homepage. The county executive appoints the members, who are confirmed by the County Council, according to county code.
The county’s Inspector General, with $2.5 million and 17 employees in this year’s budget, works to “promote the effectiveness and efficiency of programs and operations of County government and independent County agencies, prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse in government activities, and propose ways to increase the legal, fiscal, and ethical accountability of County government and County-funded agencies,” according to the county.
Broadly speaking, the county’s Ethics Law describes conflict of interest issues for county employees and elected officials, and lays out the powers of the county’s Ethics Commission.
Residents on social media have criticized Mink for using her power as a Councilmember to call McBain, and said the Ethics Commission and/or Inspector General should investigate the incident. They’ve also noted Mink’s outspokenness on policing issues—and said that her actions Wednesday night don’t align with those beliefs.
Al Carr, a former delegate from District 18, worked extensively on the county and state’s ethics laws during his time in office. In an interview, he said he had no ethical concerns about Mink’s actions.
Any resident who was present at the meeting could have gotten a business card from McBain or another officer, or gotten their phone number—and thus called the commander or officer if they were in a similar situation, Carr said. He called the criticism “overblown.”
“It doesn’t seem necessary, but it’s really up to the Councilwoman if she sees it fit to do that,” Carr said of the calls for an investigation.
Carr added that the county’s ethics law is meant to apply to financial disclosures, conflicts of interest related to outside employment, or if a county employee has a relative who would benefit in some way from government business.
“There’s a financial aspect to it, and that’s not this,” Carr said.
MoCo360 staff writer Apps Bichu contributed to this report.