Bobby Neall's influence Anne Arundel: Question not about access, but whether clients win special treatment.

September 18, 1996

ROBERT R. NEALL, former Anne Arundel County executive and current lobbyist, has the easy access to all levels of county government that others in his trade envy. Not only does he have intimate knowledge of the government, he has the ear of his successor and ideological standard-bearer, County Executive John G. Gary. Mr. Gary still owes Mr. Neall's political action committee $7,500 from the last campaign. It is fair to ask whether that outstanding loan grants Mr. Neall undue influence.

But Mr. Gary has made no secret of the fact he admires Mr. Neall. The main thrust of Mr. Gary's 1994 campaign was that he would run the county as did Mr. Neall. Not only do the two men see eye-to-eye on policy, they had forged a close working relationship as former delegates in the Maryland General Assembly. They also have worked to build the Republican Party in Anne Arundel.

Had Mr. Neall not lent Mr. Gary a dime, he would still have been welcome in the executive uite in the Arundel Center. "Bobby Neall didn't have to loan me any money to have access to me," Mr. Gary says without apology.

The issue is not whether Mr. Neall, former colleague and mentor, has unprecedented access to Mr. Gary, because he would under any circumstances. The real issue is whether Mr. Neall, lobbyist, has undue influence in government decision-making on behalf of his clients, and whether they are getting treatment that others would not.

His impact as a lobbyist has already been felt on the state level. One of his clients, Driggs Construction, could benefit from legislation that he skillfully navigated through the State House. Local jurisdictions now have authority to establish special taxing districts that can issue low-interest bonds to finance infrastructure projects such as roads, sewers and parks. Driggs is the builder of a 1,600-home development near Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Mr. Neall says he has not lobbied on behalf of Driggs in Anne Arundel, but he will be watched closely as this legislation wends its way to the county level. Ethics laws allow former county executives to lobby, but Mr. Neall must be scrupulous when he does. If he isn't, his reputation will suffer.

Pub Date: 09/18/96

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