ANNAPOLIS-The chairman of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents announced Friday that he will not stand for re-election in July partly because of accusations that he used his relationship with Gov. Parris N. Glendening to lobby the state on behalf of his private law clients.
Lance W. Billingsley, who has been chairman for four years, is an Annapolis lawyer and close friend of Glendening’s. In the past, he has used the relationship to arrange meetings between his clients and the governor, according to published reports. And in February, he applied for a state lobbying license, but rescinded his application when reporters and legislators questioned whether an official in the university system should be a lobbyist.
Billingsley has represented clients ranging from Youth Services International, which runs two reform schools in the state, to Lockheed Martin, which collects child support payments for the state, to an Indian tribe seeking state recognition. Because he has the governor’s ear, some groups, such as Common Cause-Maryland, have said that Billingsley’s services are similar to formal lobbying services. But because he never sought to directly influence votes, Billingsley has maintained he is not a lobbyist.
“While I think … concerns are unfounded, I don’t want my chairmanship in any way to become a liability to the institutions I have worked so hard to advance,” Billingsley said in a written statement Friday.
The governor believes Billingsley has performed well and has been an excellent regent, a spokesman said Friday afternoon. When The Baltimore Sun first reported the controversy surrounding Billingsley March 7, Glendening said he saw no reason why Billingsley’s private activities conflicted with his public duties. The governor has not changed his belief, spokesman Don Vandrey said.
Billingsley is acting as a lobbyist, and that is troubling considering his relationship with the governor, said Kathleen S. Skullney of Common Cause- Maryland.
Glendening appointed Billingsley to a five-year term in 1995. Billingsley, who was elected chairman by his fellow board members, said he will remain a member of the Board of Regents until his term ends in July, 2000. He did not comment on his future plans for his private consulting business.
“I deeply regret that we will lose his unique skills and talents as chairman,” said Donald N. Langenberg, chancellor for the University of Maryland. Langenberg did not comment on Billingsley’s private interests.
In 1997, Billingsley, arranged a meeting between his clients, the Piscataway-Conoy Indian sub-tribes, and the governor. He told The Baltimore Sun he used his closeness with Glendening to arrange the meetings but pointed to the fact that the governor rejected the tribe’s bid for recognition as a sign that he had no direct influence on Glendening’s vote.
Billingsley also represented Youth Services International and Lockheed Martin to various state agencies, something he told The Sun he is qualified to do as an expert on government law. Maryland politics has been stung by other ethical questions recently. Sen. Larry Young, D-Baltimore, resigned last year after demanding a bribe of $52,000 and two computers from a state HMO. Delegate Gerald J. Curran, D-Baltimore, resigned shortly after Young also under an ethical cloud. -30-