UM system regent will join lobbying law firm

But Billingsley says he won't work in Assembly

January 26, 2000|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

Lance W. Billingsley, a member of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents and a close friend of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, is joining a prominent lobbying law firm in Annapolis -- but not as a legislative lobbyist.

Billingsley, 59, known in Prince George's County for handling administrative issues before government, will join the Baltimore-based law firm of Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver on Feb. 1.

But Billingsley will not be lobbying before the General Assembly, for which the Rifkin firm is best known. His decision last year to lobby the legislature while regents chairman caused such a flap that he abandoned it.

"I've made the decision that as long as I'm on the Board of Regents, I would not engage in legislative lobbying for compensation," said Billingsley, who was reappointed by Glendening to a five-year term in July.

Instead, he said, he will continue his "administrative law practice," which involves handling clients who have "problems dealing with governmental law at either the state or local levels."

Billingsley, Hyattsville city attorney since 1975, said nothing would preclude him from becoming and registering as a lobbyist before the executive branch.

Under state law, if an advocate represents a client on a state procurement contract worth more than $100,000, or spends more than $100 on entertaining or gifts to state officials in trying to influence an executive action, that person must register with the State Ethics Commission. "If the opportunity presents itself, I certainly would be willing to represent clients in that area," he said.

He was a founder of Meyers, Billingsley, Rodbell & Rosenbaum of Riverdale, long considered the "go-to" law firm in Prince George's County because of political ties.

Billingsley decided to leave, he said, because "my involvement in different activities in Maryland has caused me to represent more clients with statewide interests." Affiliation with Rifkin would allow more of that, he said.

"Lance is a multitalented corporate attorney with significant expertise in many areas of the law," said Alan M. Rifkin, the firm's managing partner. "We are honored and delighted that he will be joining our corporate and commercial litigation division."

Billingsley, chairman of the university system regents from 1995 until July, caused a stir last 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 should not be a legislative lobbyist.

It was later revealed he was regularly taking on clients who paid him to get Glendening's ear, help in disputes with state agencies and serve as their advocate.

He stepped down as chairman in July, after legislators questioned whether he could be effective while lobbying state officials on behalf of corporate clients.

The Rifkin firm also announced yesterday that lobbyist Geraldine Valentino would join its newly created government relations division, headed by Joel D. Rozner, Glendening's former chief of staff.

Rifkin was former Gov. William Donald Schaefer's chief lobbyist. Also affiliated with the firm are former state Sen. Laurence Levitan, former Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg and former Baltimore Circuit Judge Edgar P. Silver.

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