ANNAPOLIS — A former legislator turned consultant has resigned his position on a board that oversees school construction just as the legislature sent a bill that would reconstitute the panel and take away oversight from the Board of Public Works.
John Bohanan, a former legislator from Southern Maryland who is now a consultant with an Annapolis lobbying firm, tendered his resignation a day before the Senate gave final approval to legislation Gov. Larry Hogan has said he will immediately veto. Hogan, a first-term Republican, has been critical of Bohanan’s presence on the Interagency Committee on School Construction, saying it violated requirements that lobbyists not serve on the panel.
Bohanan did not respond to requests for comment.
“As the legislature considers the recommendations of the Knott Commission and adopts changes, I decided this is a good time to end my tenure to allow my replacement to be involved in the full transition and implementation of the new process,” Bohanan wrote in his resignation letter to House Speaker Michael E. Busch.
Bohanan was the House of Delegates’ representative and appointed by Busch. A spokeswoman for Busch did not respond to requests for comment.
Bohanan, in an interview last year, said that as a consultant he is not subject to state ethics laws regarding registering as a lobbyist.
State law prohibits registered lobbyists from serving on the Interagency Committee on School Construction.
During two-days of debate in the Senate, Republicans attempted to amend House Bill 1783 to prohibit employees of firms that derive at least 50 percent of their income from regulated lobbying activity from serving on the reconstituted school construction commission.
“I think it showed that with the amendment to deal with lobbyists, they realize this bill was nowhere near perfect. It has major issues and therefore he had to resign,” said Sen. J.B. Jennings, R-Baltimore and Harford counties and Senate minority leader. “It wasn’t going to look good in the public eye. He’s employed by some kind of lobbying firm and now he’s going to be on this board making these heavy recommendations. I think it shows that the debate we had on the floor of the Senate shot holes in how perfect of an idea (Democrats) think this is and they quickly realized it and are trying to correct those issues.”
As introduced, the bill created a more streamlined and modernized process for the approval and funding of school construction projects across the state as well as recommending $400 million annually be earmarked for school building and renovation.
Sweeping changes incorporated in amendments remove all oversight on school construction funding by the Board of Public Works, a three-member panel that includes Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp.
Included in the changes in the bill sent to the governor is the creation of an independent nine-member panel, to be called the Interagency Commission on School Construction, that includes the state schools superintendent, four members appointed directly by the governor, and two appointments each for the leaders of the House and Senate.
Bohanan’s membership on the current five-member panel drew criticism from Hogan and others because of his association with Cornerstone Government Affairs, with whom he works as a consultant and not a registered lobbyist.
Last year, ethics watchdogs raised concerns that Bohanan was engaged in lobbying, citing emails he sent to Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and Department of General Services Secretary Ellington Churchill regarding a paint contract on which a company owned by his wife was a subcontractor. Ultimately, Bohanan’s efforts did not change the contract.
Bohanan last year said he did not violate any laws requiring him to register as a lobbyist.
“I’m very careful in what I do in this role,” Bohanan said. “I’ve talked to counsel and everything and I don’t see where I did anything wrong.”
A spokesman for the governor applauded the resignation but said the law passed Thursday doesn’t provide enough protection against future appointments.