Md. state senator has history of financial reporting lapses

State Sen. David Harrington failed to disclose this house in Bladensburg as income-producing property.
State Sen. David Harrington failed to disclose this house in Bladensburg as income-producing property. (Marvin Joseph/the Washington Post)
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By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 8, 2010

Maryland State Sen. David C. Harrington has repeatedly provided false or incomplete information on government financial disclosure forms dating from his time on the Prince George's County Council in 2005, including failing to disclose that his wife was a lobbyist for a firm that did business with the government, a review of state and county records shows.

The forms, signed under oath and penalty of perjury, are mandated to provide transparency about the financial interests of lawmakers and guard against improper influence. According to a review by The Washington Post, Harrington has not gone a year without omitting information or submitting an inaccuracy on a disclosure form since 2005 -- the earliest year available on record -- whether it pertained to his property holdings, debts or his wife's employment.

The findings come as Harrington is being challenged for his seat in Annapolis by Del. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George's) in the September Democratic primary. Harrington, a former County Council chairman, was appointed to the position in 2008 to replace the late Sen. Gwendolyn T. Britt.

On county disclosure forms for the 2005 and 2006 reporting periods, Harrington (D-Prince George's) checked "no" in response to a line asking whether he or his spouse worked for a company that did business with the county. However, according to state records, his wife, Cheryl Harrington, was registered with the state as a lobbyist for G.S. Proctor and Associates beginning in late 2005 and into 2006, and the firm's clients included the Prince George's County Council and the county Board of Education during that same period.

Reached for comment on the questionnaire Tuesday, David Harrington said, "I thought I did check 'yes,' " to the question regarding his wife's employment. He declined to answer additional questions over the phone and asked that they be e-mailed.

In e-mailed responses, he said that his wife did no lobbying before the County Council and that his wife did not work for the lobbying firm when he filled out the 2005 form. He said he checked "no" in 2006, "because my wife had no dealings with nor did she lobby the County Council." However, the line on the form asked whether his wife worked for a company that did business with the county, not whether she conducted such business herself.

After being directed to state records confirming she was a registered lobbyist for the firm in 2005, he sent another e-mail saying that he had been advised by the county's Office of Law to amend the forms to reflect his wife's employment and that he would do so by the end of the week.

Cheryl Harrington referred questions about the forms to her husband. A county spokeswoman confirmed she is now a county contractor coordinating 2010 census activities for Prince George's.

Robert Hahn, executive director of the Maryland State Ethics Commission, declined to comment on the specifics of Harrington's disclosure forms, citing agency policy. Calls to the Prince George's County Board of Ethics were not returned. Ramirez declined to comment.

Harrington also failed to disclose an income source that was required to be reported. On state forms for the 2008 and 2009 reporting periods, he listed one of his houses in the 5100 block of Varnum Street in Bladensburg as his "home residence." But a woman who lives next door to the house and a man who claims he was Harrington's former tenant said the senator has been renting out the property for years.

Instructions supplied by the ethics commission state that "income-producing real property" is required to be declared.

"I would say that includes rent," Hahn said of the rule.

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