Financial disclosure reports detailed elected leaders' business interests -- Gazette.Net


Many of the state's elected leaders are landlords and have vacation homes; several work other government jobs or have interests in businesses that at least occasionally sell to the state; and only a few received significant gifts, according to their latest financial disclosure statements.

Among 34 legislators in leadership posts in the General Assembly about one-third are landlords. That includes the presiding officers, the majority leader and whip in each chamber, the minority leader and whip in each chamber and the chairmen and chairwomen and vice chairs of six standing Senate and seven standing House committees.

Among the landlords are Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and longtime Judiciary Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr., according to the financial statements, which were filed April 30 with the State Ethics Commission.

Lawmakers and their spouses who hold down state or local government jobs include House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis, whose report showed he made $120,000 last year as assistant to the director of Anne Arundel County's recreation and parks department; and Economic Matters Chairman Dereck E. Davis (D-Dist. 25) of Upper Marlboro, who left the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission midyear to work for Prince George's County's Office of Community Relations.

Some defend the practice of lawmakers working for other governmental jurisdictions, saying it helps the part-time lawmakers in their legislative roles, but others say ethics laws don't cover enough contingencies when it comes to lawmakers' outside employment.

As it currently stands, legislators are prohibited from gaining new employment with state or local governments in Maryland after they are elected, but the legislative leaders all held their government jobs at the time they were elected.

Also, General Assembly members who held government employment before Oct. 1, 1999, are exempted and may continue to take government jobs for which they are qualified, said William G. Somerville, who is Counsel to the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics and ethics adviser to the General Assembly.

With the approval of the ethics committee, legislators may move to new government jobs along their career track or take teaching or direct human services jobs that are not managerial.

Property loversBesides Miller (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach, Judicial Proceedings Chairman Brian E. Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Chevy Chase and committee Vice Chairwoman Lisa A. Gladden (D-Dist. 41) of Baltimore are landlords.

Other landlords are Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Garagiola (D-Dist. 15) of Germantown and Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Chairwoman Joan Carter Conway (D-Dist. 43) of Baltimore and committee Vice Chairman Roy P. Dyson (D-Dist. 29) of Great Mills.

In the House, besides Vallario (D-Dist 27A) of Upper Marlboro, who owns property in six of the state's 24 jurisdictions, landlords include Judiciary Vice Chairwoman Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Dist. 15) of Rockville. Others are Appropriations Chairman Norman H. Conway (D-Dist. 38B) of Salisbury and committee Vice Chairman James E. Proctor Jr. (D-Dist. 27A) of Accokeek and Environmental Matters Chairwoman Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Dist. 43) of Baltimore.

Some own just one rental property, but a few — including Frosh, Garagiola, Miller, Vallario, McIntosh and Conway — have several or extensive rental holdings.

A company partly owned by Vallario and his wife rents office space in Oxon Hill to District 26 Sen. C. Anthony Muse and District 26 Dels. Veronica Turner and Jay Walker.

Most of the business and residential properties for which landlords in leadership roles collect rent are in or near their districts, but some are in Washington, D.C., Virginia and South Carolina.

Property near the water appears to be a draw for several Maryland lawmakers, including Sens. Miller, Dyson, Rules Chairwoman Katherine A. Klausmeier (D-Dist. 8) of Perry Hall, Finance Chairman Thomas McLain Middleton (D-Dist. 28) of Waldorf and Vice Chairman John C. Astle (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis.

Others with property near water are House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve (D-Dist. 17) of Gaithersburg, Health and Government Operations Chairman Peter A. Hammen (D-Dist. 46) of Baltimore and, perhaps, Ways and Means Vice Chairman Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg (D-Dist. 41) of Baltimore.

Vacation homes listed are in Ocean City (Astle and Dyson); a canal community in Selbyville (Del. Klausmeier and Hammen, on the same road); Naples, Fla. (Miller); Edwardsville, Va., on the south bank of the Potomac River (Middleton); and Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Barve, timeshare).

Rosenberg listed among his holdings a Palm Beach, Fla., condo on the coast, but did not tag it as a vacation or rental property.

Maryland Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) and Treasurer Nancy Kopp (D) go north to catch an ocean breeze — he at a vacation home in Orleans, Mass., on Cape Cod; she at a vacation home in Gloucester, Mass.

On the public payroll

Lawmakers who have government jobs include Economic Matters Vice Chairman David D. Rudolph (D-Dist. 34B) of Rising Sun, who works for Cecil College; Budget & Taxation Chairman Edward J. Kasemeyer (D-Dist. 12) of Columbia, who is under contract to the state's Injured Workers' Insurance Fund; and Budget & Taxation Vice Chairman Nathaniel J. McFadden (D-Dist. 45) of Baltimore, who lists employment with Baltimore City Public Schools.

And Gladden works as a public defender in Baltimore, while Rosenberg made less than $5,000 teaching legislation classes at University of Baltimore and University of Maryland law schools.

Lawmakers in a part-time legislature such as Maryland's are expected to have outside employment, Somerville said. It benefits the state in having them bring their outside knowledge to the debate, he said.

On the flip side, even in cases in which legislators have a presumed or apparent conflict of interest, the lawmakers may vote on legislation if they file a disclaimer with the ethics committee stating they can vote fairly and in the public interest.

The “compelling public interest” argument, however, doesn't extend to lawyer-legislators and the clients they represent in court, said former Common Cause Maryland executive director James Browning. That detail often goes unreported because of lawyer-client privilege, he said.

“We need to look at [requiring] confidential disclosures of clients to the State Ethics Commission or Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, so someone can vet that list,” said Browning, who now is Common Cause regional director for the mid-Atlantic and Midwest states.

Browning noted House Judiciary Chairman Vallario, who is a defense lawyer, has been accused of putting defendants' interests above the public interest because of his opposition to measures that would toughen drunken-driving and gun control laws.

Browning said when a lawmaker's pocketbook benefits from other legislators' political expenditures — as was the apparent case when Vallairo rented office space to three District 26 legislators — it's akin to legislators contributing to each other's political campaigns, which can create a “sense of obligation.”

Vallario disclosed the District 26 legislative office rental in his disclosure, but did not return a call for comment.

Del. Turner, one of the three legislators renting the space, said she did not initiate the rental and did not know Vallario had an ownership interest in the building. She said she was told former judge and former delegate Richard Palumbo, a close friend of Vallario's, was an owner.

Some state spending or purchases that benefit lawmakers' business interests are allowed.

Although legislators are generally prohibited from participating directly in state or local government procurements, they may be employed by, or own a business, that has government contracts — as long as they are not involved directly in contacts with the government agency, including discussing or setting terms of the contract, according to a Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics guide.

Dyson Lumber Co. in Great Mills, of which Roy Dyson owns a one-ninth share, did business with the state's Department of Natural Resources, the State Highway Administration, state-supported St. Mary's College and Historic St. Mary's, Dyson disclosed.

In an interview, Dyson said he does not run the company's day-to-day business and that the purchases were small, such as waterproof boots that highway workers realized they needed after they arrived in southern Maryland to work in the aftermath of storms.

Then, there are the spouses of legislators.

Joan Carter Conway's husband, Vernon Conway, is a Baltimore City liquor inspector; Middleton's wife, Joan, is associate vice president at the College of Southern Maryland; Norman Conway's wife, Jan — like her husband, she is a retired educator — made $5,000 last year under an agreement with Wicomico County Public Schools to mentor new principals and vice principals.

Wicomico schools spokeswoman Tracy Sahler said Jan Conway is one of two recently retired, longtime principals who are mentoring new school principals under similar specialized services agreements. Because there's a limited pool of individuals who know the school system so well and have as much experience, the services were not put out for bid, Sahler said.

Barve's wife, Maureen Quinn, was appointed to a 12-year term on the state's Workers' Compensation Commission in 2002, before she married him in 2004.

Busch, Davis, Rudolph, Garagiola and House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell (R-Dist. 29C) of Lusby reported their wives work for local, or neighboring, county public school systems.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) listed the Screen Actors Guild as a source of outside income because, according to his spokeswoman Raquel Guillory, he gets some small residual payments from his appearance, as then-Baltimore mayor, in the 2004 movie “Ladder49,” filmed in Charm City.

Almost no legislators reported gifts of significant value above the thresholds that require reporting: more than $20 for a single gift or $100 for a series of gifts from people who lobby, do business with or are regulated by the state.

Beyond a few who noted they had received hats, shirts, mugs, bags and complimentary meals valued below those thresholds at community and civic group meetings, McFadden reported receiving $200 in tickets from the University of Maryland, $150 in tickets from his alma mater Morgan State University, $150 in tickets from the Maryland Stadium Authority and $600 in tickets from Baltimore's mayor.

The tickets from the mayor's office were for the circus, concerts and Orioles games and were passed on to constituents, said Dominque Mattocks, an aide to McFadden.

Norman Conway reported using the Maryland Stadium Authority and governor's boxes with his family and friends to watch Orioles games in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

A proposal that would have allowed online access to legislators' financial disclosures was defeated in the last legislative session. Instead. lawmakers approved a measure requiring a study and recommendation to be delivered to lawmakers by Dec. 31 on how best to provide access.

The measure will require some statements of potential conflicts of interest to be filed online and made accessible to members of the public, who must register in order to view them.