Former speaker Mitchell to consult for BGE

April 09, 1994|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Sun Staff Writer

Former House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., who resigned from the General Assembly in December, has been hired as a political consultant by the Baltimore Gas & Electric Co.

Arthur Slusark, a spokesman for the utility, said he could not say precisely what Mr. Mitchell will do for the company, or discuss the terms of his contract, because those matters are being worked out. He also said the company will not disclose how much Mr. Mitchell will be paid.

But Mr. Slusark said Mr. Mitchell will not be a registered legislative lobbyist, will not advise the company on how to make campaign contributions, and will not appear before the Public Service Commission.

"We feel, as a former speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates and an experienced legislator, Mr. Mitchell will provide BGE with a unique perspective on issues affecting the company and its 1.1 million customers," Mr. Slusark said.

Mr. Mitchell, who will turn 58 next week, did not return several telephone calls to his home and business. A conservative Eastern Shoreman, Mr. Mitchell was first elected from rural Kent County in 1970 and rose through the ranks to become Appropriations Committee chairman and, in 1987, speaker. Along with the Senate president and governor, it is one of the three most powerful jobs in state government.

Maryland has a "revolving door" law that prohibits former state officials or employees from accepting compensation for working on a matter involving the state government "if that matter is one in which he significantly participated as an official or employee."

That law, however, specifically exempts former members of the General Assembly, and a number of them have taken advantage of the loophole.

Several years ago, former House Speaker John Hanson Briscoe, a Democrat from St. Mary's County, tried lobbying after leaving office, but did not like it and returned to the practice of law. He is now a judge.

Marvin Mandel, a former governor and House speaker, also returned to the State House as a lobbyist for a lottery vendor and for the state medical society.

George W. Della Sr., a former president of the Maryland Senate, also became a lobbyist after leaving office and, like Mr. Mitchell, worked for BGE.

During his years in the legislature, Mr. Mitchell got to know former BGE chairman and chief executive officer George V. McGowan and his successor, Christian H. Poindexter, Mr. Slusark said.

"They've had mutual discussions over the years, and have had a very good relationship over the years," Mr. Slusark said. "When he did retire from being speaker, both parties got together and talked over their mutual interests, and it became a more concrete offer on our part in the last two weeks."

In 1992, Mr. Mitchell convinced Gov. William Donald Schaefer to appoint Susanne Brogan, then the speaker's top aide, to a seat on the Public Service Commission, a state agency that rules on rate cases involving public utilities such as BGE.

Asked about Mr. Mitchell's new job yesterday, Ms. Brogan said she did not expect her former boss to become involved in commission matters because they are so technical, and said she doubted his hiring by BGE had anything to do with her.

"I'm absolutely positive that was not the motive for Clay being considered," she said. "I think Clay has a lot of good qualities that he can bring to BGE, but one of them is not his good relationship with me. I respect the position I am in, and I think Clay does, too."

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