ANNAPOLIS – A panel of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents has concluded that board chairman David H. Nevins did not violate the board’s prohibition against lobbying when he facilitated meetings between his bosses at Constellation Energy Group and leaders of the General Assembly.
“I am certainly pleased,” David H. Nevins said. “I had been confident that there was no wrongdoing.”
The report, released Wednesday, comes just days after the General Assembly made a final push for increased ethical oversight of the board, which is the governing body of the university system. On Monday, the Senate overturned a veto of a bill banning regents from political fundraising and running for office.
The concerns over Nevins arose after The Washington Post reported that Nevins, the chief marketing officer at Constellation, met in early February with top executives of his company and four leaders of the General Assembly: House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Southern Maryland, Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, D- Charles, and Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, D-Baltimore County.
The meeting was called to discuss Constellation’s planned merger with FPL Group, a Florida utility company.
According to a press release summarizing the report issued by the university system, the three-member panel of regents found “that the participants did not believe that the meetings were set up for lobbying purposes and did not perceive that lobbying actually took place.”
The regents’ review said that Nevins’ “only roles were to coordinate meeting logistics and make social introductions.”
The initial report in The Washington Post on the meeting, however, quoted both Miller and Busch expressing concerns about Nevins role.
“It seems to me, under the current law, it’s a conflict,” the Post story quoted Busch as saying at the time.
Neither Busch nor Miller could be reached for comment late Wednesday.
The board’s ethics policy, adopted in 1999, states: “A member of the Board of Regents shall not, for compensation, assist or represent any party in any matter before the General Assembly . . .”
The board also concluded that the board must further clarify its ethics policies. Nevins agreed.
The panel’s review spanned five weeks and was conducted by board members Orlan Johnson, Clifford Kendall and Robert Mitchell. The panel was appointed by Michael Gill, chairman of the board of regents’ audit committee, who said this was the first time an internal investigation has been done by the board of regents of any member’s activities. According to Gill, that same panel is also conducting a separate review involving lobbying activities by a second regent, former governor Marvin Mandel. The Baltimore Sun reported that Mandel was working to kill a bill that would have affected a client in his law practice.