Ehrlich backs lawyer in ethics complaint


Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. defended yesterday his personal attorney, who is the subject of a complaint alleging he lobbied in Annapolis without the registration required by a state ethics board.

Speaking on Stateline with Governor Ehrlich on WBAL radio, he called the lawyer, David Hamilton, "the most integrity-laden individual I have met in the legal profession."

Hamilton is an attorney with Ober / Kaler, a Baltimore firm that once employed Ehrlich. He is the head of the firm's lobbying practice, which was created after Ehrlich became governor. But Hamilton is not registered as a lobbyist with the Maryland State Ethics Commission, which enforces the state's lobbying rules. Those rules include prohibitions on fundraising, and reporting requirements for compensation and meals and gifts to lawmakers and executive branch employees.

Hamilton told The Washington Post that he provides legal services to clients, while an associate - longtime Annapolis lobbyist William J. Pitcher - handles the lobbying activities.

Opponents of a liquefied natural gas facility in Dundalk said Hamilton attended meetings on behalf of a company involved in bringing an LNG facility to the Baltimore region, and that the meetings were designed to influence legislative and executive action.

"We're concerned that the exercises take place in the open and that the lobbying that takes place is properly accounted for," said Bart S. Fisher, a Washington attorney representing the LNG Opposition Team, part of the Greater Dundalk Alliance, a community watchdog group, during a news conference last week.

Ehrlich reiterated his opposition to the LNG terminal yesterday, saying, "We've been opposed to it hook, line and sinker."

Politicians who represent the Dundalk area have questioned the depth of the governor's opposition, given that his personal attorney has worked on behalf of the project.

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