Glendening backs city broker to head regents

Governor wants ally Chapman despite key lawmakers' concerns

June 16, 1999|By Thomas W. Waldron and Michael Hill | Thomas W. Waldron and Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening is backing Baltimore investment broker Nathan A. Chapman Jr. to become chairman of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, despite concerns raised by some key lawmakers who favor another candidate.

The legislators have pressed Glendening to support Adm. Charles R. Larson, the retired head of the U.S. Naval Academy, who was widely praised for his handling of a higher education task force on the university system last year.

Chapman, a political ally of Glendening's, was appointed to the board in 1995 and is its vice chairman. His Baltimore brokerage firm, which manages more than $100 million in state retirement funds, paid a $30,000 fine for violating securities regulations in 1993 and 1994.

Some legislators have expressed concern to Glendening about Chapman's business record and have questioned his commitment to the board, according to sources familiar with the conversations. But a Glendening spokesman said yesterday that the governor has faith in Chapman.

"Nate has assured the governor that he is ready and committed to offer full and effective leadership to the Board of Regents, and the governor is pleased with that commitment," spokesman Michael Morrill said.

Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, considered one of the most influential legislators on education issues, is among those who have urged Glendening to consider Larson.

"While it is not my appointment to make, someone with a strong track record in higher education such as Admiral Larson would be my choice," Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat, said yesterday.

But another key legislator praised the move.

"I think Nate Chapman will make an excellent chairman," said Del. Howard P. Rawlings of Baltimore, who heads the House Appropriations Committee.

The 17-member Board of Regents sets policies and oversees the budget for the 13 institutions of the University System of Maryland. The board is scheduled to elect its new chairman July 9.

The current chairman, Lance W. Billingsley, a Prince George's County attorney and longtime Glendening political ally, said this year that he would leave the chairmanship though he will remain on the board.

While the board formally elects its officers, the governor has traditionally had strong influence over those selections. The regents' nominating committee is expected to propose Chapman, 41, for chairman and Larson, 62, for vice chairman, sources said.

With Glendening's blessing, Larson is also expected to be given a role implementing changes in the university system recommended by his task force and approved by the General Assembly this year.

Glendening appointed Larson to a seat on the board last month. Despite the campaign on his behalf by some legislators, Larson said yesterday that he is not interested in becoming chairman at this time.

"I always feel more comfortable joining an organization and taking some time to get my feet on the ground, getting some idea of what it is all about," Larson said. "I hope I can earn the respect of my fellow regents, and then we can see where it goes from there."

Said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller: "With his background, Admiral Larson would be a strong candidate for the chairmanship, but he has indicated that he doesn't want to be a candidate."

Chapman, the head of Chapman Capital Management Holdings Inc., was a substantial fund-raiser for Glendening during the 1994 election. The governor appointed him to the Board of Regents soon after.

Chapman paid the $30,000 fine and drew a 10-day suspension to settle a complaint by the National Association of Securities Dealers that his firm had bought and sold stocks while failing to maintain enough capital.

At the time, Chapman said that any violations were unintentional. He did not return phone messages yesterday.

Chapman's company, which manages more than $600 million for clients, went public last summer, raising more than $5 million in an initial stock offering.

In February, the company acquired a West Coast brokerage, although terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Billingsley decided to step down as chairman after some legislators questioned whether he could be effective in the position at the same time he was lobbying state officials on behalf of corporate clients.

Pub Date: 6/16/99

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