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Cooke lobbying for a clean slate

Longtime Annapolis lobbyist Ira C. Cooke has filed a petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in federal court in Baltimore.

Cooke, who won a six-year battle to regain his Maryland law license last year, listed assets of $212,932 and liabilities of $243,000 in papers filed last month in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Cooke’s liabilities consisted entirely of a debt to Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and $40,000 in unpaid fees to his Baltimore condominium council.

The filing automatically put collection efforts by the Council of Unit Owners of Greenberry Woods Condominium Inc. on hold. The council had filed suit in September in state court in Baltimore, but its interest could be excused by the federal court under provisions of the bankruptcy code.

The council has retained Annapolis lawyer John M. Oliveri to see that does not happen.

Cooke is “seeking the protection of the bankruptcy court, which he is entitled to do,” said Oliveri, a solo practitioner. “We’re going to ensure that my client’s interests are protected … to make sure that our claim is protected and that we move forward in that regard.”

Cooke, a Hagerstown solo practitioner, declined to comment on his filing and the council’s objections.

In his filing, Cooke listed his average monthly income as $2,166.67 and average monthly expenses as $2,139.50, for an average monthly net income of $27.17.

He also listed assets of $168,933 in real property and $43,999 in personal property.

His 401(k) account made up almost all of the personal property, but Cooke also declared $22 in cash and $740 worth of household furnishings. In addition, Cooke listed $92 worth of clothes, two watches valued at a total of $50, and a $15 camera.

Cooke’s attorney, Hagerstown solo practitioner Edward N. Button, declined to comment on the filing.

Cooke was once one of the highest-paid lobbyists in the state, routinely making the top 20 on the Maryland State Ethics Commission’s annual list of lobbyists by compensation from 1998 to 2003.

Cooke had consented to disbarment and revocation of his lobbying license in 2005, following a December 2004 bribery conviction — later overturned — in California.

The conviction was reversed in 2006, and the Ethics Commission reinstated Cooke’s Maryland lobbying license effective January 2007.

The following year, he came in at #113 on the commission’s list with income of about $66,000 — roughly one-fourth of his previous annual totals.

After 2008, though, Cooke has not appeared on the list, which cuts off at $50,000 a year.

Cooke filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 19, nearly 19 months after Maryland’s top court, on a 4-3 vote, reinstated his law license on April 25, 2012.

The Court of Appeals’ majority remarked on the reversal of his conviction, as well as Cooke’s “new determination to adhere to the high standards of integrity and legal competence.”

“We conclude that, on balance, the petitioner should be reinstated to the practice of law,” the majority stated.