ANNAPOLIS – Lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano and an ethics reform panel have ironed out a misunderstanding, and the lobbyist will speak to the group next week.
Bereano nearly refused to testify, according to Donald B. Robertson, chairman of the lobbyist reform panel, after being told the panel would not schedule him as a witness.
However, Robertson said there was a misunderstanding and Bereano will speak during the public comment portion of the panel’s next meeting Wednesday.
Bereano confirmed Friday afternoon that he will appear before the Study Commission on Lobbyist Ethics after speaking with Robertson.
“I thanked him very much. I’m going to be testifying next Wednesday and give the commission the benefit of my thoughts,” Bereano said. Bereano had filed a written request to speak to the panel with Robertson.
Bereano is under house arrest for a 1994 mail fraud conviction connected to his lobbying business and now is fighting to keep his license to practice law in Maryland.
Earlier this week, the study commission declined to schedule Bereano as a witness along with Common Cause Maryland, a campaign watchdog organization, and the League of Women Voters. The panel said it did not consider Bereano to be in the same category as those groups, which were invited by the commission to testify. It had always said that Bereano could address the commission during the public comment session.
Individuals have testified to the commission, including John E. O’Donnell, executive director of the State Ethics Commission and U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Baltimore, who led a summer study panel on legislative ethics. Robertson characterized those discussions as “briefings” at the panel’s request.
“The question wasn’t really whether we would hear from Mr. Bereano, but when and how,” Robertson said. Bereano “knows that he will have ample time to present his testimony.”
Bereano estimated he will talk about 30 minutes, Robertson said. Should the panel’s time run out before he’s through, he will be invited back for the next meeting, now set for Oct.6.
Robertson said the commission designated Wednesday’s meeting to hear from specific organizations with an interest in the issue. It was never “designed as a public hearing to hear from individuals,” he said.
Those who want to testify before the commission will be handled the same as Bereano – they would be allowed to speak during the public comment portion of the commission’s meeting.
“If there are others who are interested in testifying and are involved in the Annapolis scene, or are otherwise interested in what we are doing, we’re going to make time to hear from them, if they indicate to us they have a specific thing to say, as Mr. Bereano did,” Robertson said.
– 30 – CNS-9-24-99