UM regents approve new ethics policy

October 29, 2006|By Capital News Service

The University System of Maryland's Board of Regents has approved a tougher ethics policy for its members that prohibits paid lobbying and sets stricter standards on conflicts of interest.

The new guidelines approved Friday elaborate on the one-sentence 1999 policy banning lobbying by regents, under which regent and former Gov. Marvin Mandel and former board Chairman David H. Nevins were investigated by a panel of their fellow board members.

"I think it's fair to say that [the new guidelines] stemmed from the review of my activities and those of a couple of other board members," Nevins said.

As the former marketing director of Constellation Energy Group, Nevins came under scrutiny by the board after he chaperoned Constellation officials to meetings with state legislators. A panel of the board cleared Nevins of any wrongdoing in April.

Shortly after Nevins was cleared, the same audit committee panel found that Mandel had violated the policy working as a paid lobbyist during the 2004, 2005 and 2006 legislative sessions.

"What happened when these issues were raised this past spring was that people recognized that there were really no standards or guidelines to drive this policy," said William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland.

The new policy states that members cannot accept payment to "communicate with an official or employee of the General Assembly for the purpose of influencing legislative action." Exceptions include communicating with legislators on official regents business and representing one's own employer or profession at the legislature - provided that talking to General Assembly staff is a normal part of the job.

Under the new guidelines, board members cannot engage in talks with lawmakers that create - or even appear to be - a conflict of interest with their duties as regents.

The old policy read, "A member of the Board of Regents shall not, for compensation, assist or represent any party in any matter before the General Assembly."

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