Younger Jennings' successes recognized Questions raised about son's ties to family company

November 21, 1995|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

Already by 30, Larry E. Jennings Jr. was on just about anyone's list of up-and-coming movers and shakers in Baltimore.

At Legg Mason Inc., the city's premier brokerage house, he handled bond work as a vice president for public finance. At black-tie political events, he hobnobbed with close associates of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. At the Baltimore Housing Authority, he was a Schmoke administration appointee on the governing board.

He invested in a fashionable French restaurant. He was chosen by Baltimore magazine in October 1993 as one of "27 members of Baltimore's next business establishment." Almost immediately after starting his own financial advisory business a year ago, he landed a major client, the city of Detroit.

Now his name has surfaced in an unexpected place -- a federal corruption trial. In the past week as his father, Larry E. Jennings Sr., a contractor, faced charges of paying bribes to win no-bid housing work, questions have been raised about the younger Jennings' relationship with a family firm.

Mr. Jennings had long denied any role in the two companies run by his father, mother and sister that received more than $1.18 million in work from the city Housing Authority.

Yet while he served on the board of the same agency that awarded the contracts, Mr. Jennings personally handled finances of one family firm, Elias Contracting Corp., according to documents and testimony in court. He balanced the books, wrote checks and identified himself as the company's vice president for business and finance.

Mr. Jennings resigned from the Housing Authority and left Legg Mason a year ago. At the time, he insisted his departure from the board was "not at all" prompted by criticism in a federal audit that cited the contracts to his family's firms in calling for tighter conflict-of-interest regulations.

Instead, he said he wanted to devote more time to his new business, Carnegie Morgan Partners, which has since won a three-year contract worth at least $90,000 annually in Detroit.

Phone calls to his home and offices in Baltimore and Detroit were not returned. Mr. Jennings also did not respond to a letter sent by overnight mail.

The son of a longtime worker with the Maryland Transit Administration, Mr. Jennings, 32, often has been a step ahead of others.

In the fall of 1980, while his classmates were finishing their senior year at Polytechnic Institute in North Baltimore, Mr. Jennings was studying at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in May 1984 and received his master's in business administration from Carnegie Mellon in 1987.

Over the next seven years, Mr. Jennings rose in prominence in Baltimore's corporate and political circles. He lived for a time on the same street as the mayor before building a house in the exclusive neighborhood of Homeland. He socialized with Schmoke officials and became a frequent campaign contributor

to the mayor.

When Mr. Jennings was 26, Mr. Schmoke appointed him to the Housing Authority board, one of the volunteer positions in the city that is a resume booster.

"I was looking for talented young professionals to participate in the civic life of the city," Mr. Schmoke said last week.

In the fall of 1991, Mr. Jennings tried his hand at entrepreneurial ventures. In September, he set up a real estate company, Carnegie Morgan Partners Corp., with the goal of buying, renovating and investing in rental apartments, according to state corporation records. The company is no longer in business, but Mr. Jennings used the same name when he set up his investment firm last year.

State records also show that in October 1991 Mr. Jennings served as the secretary of 2110 Corp., the company running Restaurant 2110, and helped secure a loan for it in April 1993.

Mr. Jennings has been much less of a fixture on the political circuit in the past year. Since he left the housing board and Legg Mason, he has spent more time in Detroit, where his company was one of two chosen by that city's former finance director, Eric Tucker. Mr. Tucker knew Mr. Jennings from his time as finance director of Prince George's County.

Despite the revelations in court, the Housing Authority's chief, Daniel P. Henson III, called Mr. Jennings an asset to the city.

"He's a bright young man, he's apparently a very sharp investment banker, and he did what I thought was a great public service," Mr. Henson said.

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