Maryland’s House of Delegates voted to reprimand one of its members from Anne Arundel County this week after a panel found he violated ethics rules by not disclosing a conflict of interest.
In a report issued Monday, the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics concluded that Del. Tony McConkey (R-Dist. 33A) of Severna Park “drafted, offered, lobbied and voted for amendments” to a 2012 bill dealing with a fund established to compensate the victims of misconduct by licensed real estate professionals.
In 2011, McConkey was ordered to pay the fund $75,000 as part of a settlement of regulatory misconduct charges related to his real estate practice. Also, his real estate license was suspended until payment — including interest and administrative fees — was made in full, according to the committee report.
But the amendments McConkey proposed to the 2012 bill would have reduced the interest that he and a handful of others needed to pay, costing him less money overall and possibly allowing earlier reinstatement of his real estate license, according to the report.
McConkey argued that the amendments applied to all real estate licensees, but the committee found that he was one of a few people who owed such a large debt to the fund, according to the report.
The House adopted a resolution Tuesday morning expressing “disapproval” of McConkey’s actions and seeking a public apology.
McConkey told the body that he “humbly apologized,” then explained that while preparing the amendments in question, he sought the advice of William Somerville, the legislature’s now-former ethics adviser, on whether or not there was a conflict of interest.
McConkey believed that an email he received from Somerville concluded that there was no conflict of interest, he told House members. “If the ethics opinion had said something different, or if I had interpreted it differently, I would have immediately withdrawn the amendments,” McConkey said.
Del. Brian K. McHale (D-Dist. 46) of Baltimore, who co-chairs the ethics committee, offered an immediate rebuttal. “Anyone with a clear mind who would have read the advice of legislative counsel ... would have known that it was an act of misconduct to have presented that amendment and to have lobbied both houses,” McHale said.
The committee report also details McConkey’s attempts to lobby for the bill, which passed the House as amended but still needed Senate approval. McConkey emailed several senators indicating that he had filed a conflict of interest disclaimer with the ethics committee — something he had not actually done, according to the committee.
McConkey’s efforts also led to an April 9 argument with fellow Anne Arundel lawmaker Sen. Edward R. Reilly (R-Dist. 33) of Crofton, who wanted the amendments removed. McConkey eventually was escorted from Reilly’s office by Maryland State Police, according to the report.
McConkey’s amendments were stripped from the bill before it was given final passage later that day, and Reilly filed a complaint with the ethics committee April 10.