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December 13, 2011

Bereano settles ethics charges for $2,750

Annapolis lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano will go into the 2012 legislative session next month with ethics charges safely behind him.

Bereano settled a case with the State Ethics Commission earlier this year by agreeing to pay a $2,750 penalty for failing to make required disclosures of meals and other gifts to state officials.

Bereano, a convicted felon who settled a more serious ethics cases in 2009 with a $29,070 payment, came to a new agreement with the ethics panel in May under which he agreed to a fine and submitted amended disclosure forms that added detail about which state officials were the beneficiaries of his generosity.

Over the years, Bereano appears to be the lobbyist most frequently cited by the panel for violations large and small. He now has seven ethics cases on file with the commission.

The most recent settlement was found in an examination of the commission’s records. The panel does not normally send out public notices of violations – helping to account for why the infraction was not reported for months.

The agreement stipulated that Bereano did not properly disclose his spending on meals and beverages he bought for Richard B. Rosenblatt, then an assistant secretary in the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, each year between 2005-2008. Meanwhile, Rosenblatt was making the required disclosures each year – though he took a short cut by overestimating Bereano’s spending on him as coming to $500 a year for those four years.

Rosenblatt was violating no law, according to the ethics commission, because state law allows executive branch officials to be wined and dined in the presence of the person footing the bill as long as the identity and amount are disclosed. But when ethics officials cross-checked Bereano’s disclosures against Rosenblatt's, they found that the lobbyist hadn’t been quite as diligent.

Records show Bereano filed amended disclosures for 2006-2008 showing spending between $148 and $300 on wining and dining Rosenblatt for those three years while representing Correctional Medical Services.

In the same settlement, Bereano also admitted to a failure to disclose a series of gifts to a Senate staff member between 2001 and 2005. The lobbyist explained that the gifts, including sports tickets, were personal in nature and weren’t paid for by one of his employers. The ethics panel found that such gifts to employees of the legislature are not permitted.

The recipient was a former member of the staff of state Sen. John Hafer, a Western Maryland Republican. Bereano’s amended disclosure shows that the gifts followed a running theme involving the Dallas Cowboys, including tickets to the teams games against the Washington Redskins. The agreement noted that the staff member eventually reimbursed Bereano for the gifts.

Rosenblatt, who now works in the prison health industry, said he regrets having been imprecise in his disclosures, but not having dined with Bereano. He said his outside-the-office communications with the lobbyist helped improve communications between his department and a company that already held a contract.

“He helped improve the service received from the client,” Rosenblatt said. Bereano did not return a call seeking his comment.

The infractions were far less serious than the previous case in which Bereano was cited. That involved signing an illegal contingency contract that would have rewarded him for a successful outcome. But the $2,750 settlement is considerably more than the typical fine paid in a case against a lobbyist – which typically involve $250 fines for late filing of a disclosure.

Bereano is currently seeking to have his 1994 federal mail fraud conviction invalidated because of subsequent appellate rulings that call into question the prosecution's legal groundwork for the case.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:27 PM | | Comments (0)
        

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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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