Maryland legislative leaders said yesterday that they would propose a ban on business deals between legislators and lobbyists following the indictment of a Baltimore delegate charged with helping a lobbyist defraud his clients in exchange for a cut of a real estate deal.
In a joint statement, House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) said they would seek the ban when the General Assembly convenes in three weeks.
Their announcement came on the same day that Taylor said the delegate, Tony E. Fulton (D-Baltimore), would not vote on any legislation affecting the clients of Annapolis lobbyist Gerard E. Evans, who also was charged with Fulton in an 11-count federal indictment.
Fulton was charged with preparing product-liability legislation that several of Evans's clients would want to see killed. According to the indictment, Fulton never intended to follow through but drafted the legislation to generate work for Evans, who, in turn, cut Fulton in on an Annapolis real estate deal last year.
Taylor asked a special task force studying lobbying laws to meet in January to comment on the proposed ban on business dealings between lawmakers and lobbyists. An ethics task force contemplated similar legislation in 1998 but never formally proposed such a ban.
"I would like the Maryland General Assembly to have a very bright line on this issue," Taylor said in a statement.
Fulton, who is a real estate broker, received a $10,125 commission when Evans and several partners purchased a historic building in downtown Annapolis last year for their offices.
Fulton filed a disclosure statement with the legislature's ethics committee about his involvement in the transaction, and the committee this year cleared him of any ethical infractions because of that deal.
The delegate said in a statement yesterday that he would not vote on matters relating to Evans's clients--a decision that could remove him from many of the General Assembly's most contentious issues. For instance, gun control is expected to be a major issue, and Evans represents Beretta USA.
"I believe I have done nothing wrong, and I think that will ultimately be proven in a court of law, but I want to protect the institution of the House of Delegates," Fulton said.
Taylor said there would be no separate ethics committee investigation of Fulton because of the pending criminal charges.
He released a letter from the General Assembly's legal counsel that said a legislative investigation would likely not be productive because any witnesses called probably would invoke the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination until the case is resolved.