A free man, Evans set to go back to lobbying

Annapolis figure served prison term for defrauding clients

May 26, 2002|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

A state lobbyist released from federal custody two weeks ago after serving a sentence for a felony fraud conviction is wasting little time in returning to work.

Gerard E. Evans said yesterday that he has registered with the State Ethics Commission to represent five clients in Annapolis and expects to sign up several more soon. His clients include Baltimore Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, the Prince George's County and Baltimore chapters of the state's largest police union, and groups of Maryland horse trainers and horse breeders.

"I'm looking forward to working," said Evans, 46. "The last couple years have been pretty tough, and it's certainly going to be a lot of work, but I'm looking forward to it."

Evans was convicted in 2000 of fraud for scheming to win lobbying fees from out-of-town companies by misrepresenting or exaggerating the threat of legislation that would have hurt the companies. He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal prison, but was transferred to a halfway house in Washington after less than a year in custody in Cumberland. His sentence was reduced by a year when he agreed to complete a drug and alcohol abuse program, and he was released from custody May 10.

His conviction helped draw attention to the widespread influence of lobbyists in Annapolis and instigate an overhaul of ethics rules last year.

Among the measures in a new law was a provision that lobbyists convicted of ethics violations cannot return to lobbying. But that measure does not apply to Evans because his conviction preceded the new law.

Nonetheless, several lawmakers and public watchdog groups are questioning the propriety of Evans' return to lobbying so soon after his conviction.

"It's unfortunate that he hasn't found a niche other than lobbying," said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Budget and Tax Committee.

Others see no problem with Evans returning to work now that he has served his sentence.

"He is complying with the law," said House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., an Allegany County Democrat.

In his heyday

At his peak, Evans was earning $42,000 a month from his lobbying business and collecting thousands more in entertainment expense reimbursements. His popularity with major companies such as Lockheed Martin was attributed partly to his close ties with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.

Evans said yesterday that he expected to thrive again as a lobbyist, and not just because of his ties with Miller. "I think I've got sufficient contacts throughout the legislature to represent any clients," he said.

`Caught red-handed'

Hoffman wasn't so sure, saying that Evans might wield less influence with some lawmakers because of his conviction. That has been the case with Bruce C. Bereano, another top lobbyist who recently returned to Annapolis after a 1994 mail fraud conviction, she said.

Hoffman says she "liked [Evans] personally" and considered him a good lobbyist, but that she and other lawmakers were "very offended" by statements he made in his defense that suggested that his actions were common practice in Annapolis.

"He got caught red-handed and then blamed the system," she said. "To say that this is what everybody does put me off him. I never engaged in that behavior ... and I don't like getting put in that box."

In the end, Hoffman said, the success of Evans' return would depend on whether clients trusted him with their business.

"If after [the fraud conviction] they are still willing to hire him, they're going in with their eyes open," she said.

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