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Prince George's Council Lobbyists

Rosalind Helderman

The Prince George's County Council has been represented in Annapolis large portions of the last two years by lobbyists who were not registered with the state ethics commission.

State law requires that anyone who communicates with a legislative or executive official in hopes of influencing legislative, regulatory or executive action and is paid $5,000 or more to formally register as a lobbyist with the state within five days of the activity. (Communicating actually in the presence of any of those folks -- including by giving public testimony at legislative hearings -- requires registration even if the lobbyist is paid only $2,500 during a reporting period.)

According to documents released last week in response to a request filed by the Post using Maryland's Public Information Act, lobbyist David Jacobs, the husband of School Board Chairman Verjeana M. Jacobs, took on the council as a client on Feb. 1, 2006.

Jacobs received three separate contracts from the council, one to lobby from February 2006 until April 30, 2006 for $15,000, another to lobby from Jan. 1, 2007 to April 30, 2007 for $24,000 and a third for a period beginning Oct. 15 and lasting through April 15 of next year, during which time he'll be paid $36,000.

Former state delegate Darryl Kelley has received two lobbying contracts from the council, one covering the time period from Jan. 1, 2007 to April 30 for $24,000 and another from Oct. 15, 2007 to April 15, 2008 for $36,000.
All of the contracts call for Jacobs and Kelley to, among other things, "represent the interest of the County Council on matters before the General Assembly, including providing written and oral testimony at work session and public hearings of the Assembly."

Until November, neither man had registered as a lobbyist for the council with the state.

According to Ethics Commission Executive Director Robert Hahn, Jacobs has now registered to lobby for the County Council for the time period from Nov. 1 through April 2008. Kelley too filled to lobby for the Council through October 2008 on Nov. 6. On Dec. 7, he also submitted forms for the time period January through October 2007, even though that reporting period had already ended.

Jacobs is also facing other legal troubles. He was ticketed on July 6 for driving on a suspended license. His license had been taken away after a series of drunken driving incidents. In the past, he has declined to discuss the previous violations with the Post. "I'm a private citizen, and these are personal matters," he said.

Called Monday for comment about his registration, Jacobs said he was in a private meeting and would call back by midday Tuesday to comment. He did not.

In response to questions about why he had not registered, Kelley released a statement in which he wrote: "Prior to the conclusion of my legislative duties as a state delegate, I contacted the Ethics Counsel, William G. Somerville, to inquire about working for the Prince George's County Council as their lobbyist for the upcoming 2007 general session. I followed his advice and instructions for this time period."

In an interview, Somerville said advice he provides to lawmakers is considered confidential unless the lawmaker chooses to allow him to speak publicly. Kelley declined to indicate precisely what he asked Somerville or how Somerville responded. He also would not give Somerville a waiver to speak about his case.

Council Chairman David Harrington (D-Cheverly) said last week that he had asked council staff to look into Jacobs' situation and council members would discuss the issue when they return from winter recess in January. "Our management and our infrastructure is looking into the issue," he said. "When things unfold -- I'll let people know what's going on."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  December 19, 2007; 8:12 AM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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These two guys are paid $60-70K each, and neither registers until the heat is on. What's the downside to registering? If they were just too lazy to register, that's not encouraging about either their lobbying work ethic, or respect for the law. I'd be looking for new lobbyists.

Kelley says he followed the advice given by Somerville. He did not register. So it seems s Somerville's advice was not to register. Somerville says his advice to lawmakers is "considered" confidential, but it's not clear if he is formally asserting attorney client privilege. Just because Somerville "considers" it confidential, doesn't mean it is confidential. What's up with Kelley refusing to divulge the advice he received, or permitting Somerville to disclose it? Very odd!

And now Harrington has launched an investigation into Jacobs, but not Kelley. Very, very strange. Shurely shome mishtake?

Posted by: Count Bobulescu | December 19, 2007 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Don't we have a state special prosecutor for such things?

Posted by: State Special Prosecutor | December 19, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

I am moved to ask why the County Council needs to hire anyone to testify on their behalf?

Unlike our part/time Annapolis legislators who hold these hearings, being a County Council member appears to be a cushy full/time, benefits laden (and credit card spending) job. Can't these guys speak for themselves (and the folks who elected them?)

No wonder they can't fix the hospital.

Posted by: PG'er | December 19, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to the fleeting "Kelley Cheated" for partial explanation to my question. I'm curious as to why this post has been removed?

The comment/ allegation made by "Kelley Cheated" seems plausible, especially in light of Kelley's admission in the piece, that he had sought Somerville's advice about lobbying while still a legislator.

Posted by: Count Bobulescu | December 21, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

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