Regents chief to leave top post

Billingsley will stay as board member

April 10, 1999|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

Lance W. Billingsley said yesterday that he will step down as chairman of the board that governs Maryland's public universities on July 1, in part because of concerns raised about his "professional pursuits" in other areas of state government.

Billingsley, a lawyer who has chaired the Maryland Board of Regents since 1995, said he will stay on the board until his term ends next year but will not seek re-election as chairman.

In a written statement announcing his decision, Billingsley said, "Some in the press and in the legislature have raised concerns that my professional pursuits might compromise my effectiveness on behalf of the university system. While I think those concerns are unfounded, I don't want my chairmanship in any way to become a liability to the institutions I have worked so hard to advance."

Del. Robert L. Flanagan, a Howard County Republican, said stepping down as chairman does not resolve his concerns about Billingsley's lobbying activities for clients doing business with the state.

"I don't think it's adequate," Flanagan said. "If he continues his lobbying activities, he should resign from the Board of Regents. His lobbying is jeopardizing the reputation of the university."

Flanagan is a sponsor of a measure being considered by the General Assembly that would bar regents from representing for pay any party on any matter before state agencies. University system officials strongly oppose it.

Billingsley did not respond to telephone calls yesterday but said in his statement that he wants to spend more time on his law practice and to defuse the controversy over his professional activities.

He caused a stir this year when he said he was launching a lobbying career. He quickly said he would postpone those plans after critics suggested that the head of the university system shouldn't be a legislative lobbyist.

The Sun later revealed that Billingsley, a friend of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, was regularly taking on clients who paid him to get the governor's ear, help them in disputes with state agencies and serve as their advocate.

Billingsley said he is a "lawyer-advocate" for those clients, not a lobbyist as defined by state law. He said he saw no problem in his arranging for clients to meet with Glendening or in intervening on their behalf with state regulatory agencies.

Billingsley also said his law firm has sacrificed financially because of the time he has devoted to serving as board chairman and that he needed to "rededicate my efforts to the practice of law."

He is a partner in the Riverdalefirm Myers, Billingsley, Rodbell and Rosenbaum.

Billingsley's unexpected announcement came at the end of a meeting of the Board of Regents in Frostburg yesterday.

Donald N. Langenberg, University System of Maryland chancellor, said he regrets that the system will be losing Billingsley's skills as chairman, a role in which he said Billingsley has served well for the past four years.

"He has pursued his duties as chairman with a dedication and a passion that set a new standard for those who will follow him in that seat," Langenberg said.

A spokesman for Glendening said Billingsley has been "an excellent chairman, and we're sorry to see him step down."

Pub Date: 4/10/99

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