By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun
10:15 PM EST, February 5, 2013
The House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to reprimand Del. Tony McConkey after the General Assembly's ethics committee found that he failed to disclose a conflict of interest and improperly pushed for legislation that would have made it easier for him to regain his suspended real estate license.
The vote on the recommendation by the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics was 127-3. McConkey, an Anne Arundel County Republican, was present in the chamber but did not vote.
Del. Brian McHale, the House co-chair of the ethics committee, delivered the panel's recommendation that the House reprimand McConkey and that the speaker ask him to apologize to the House.
"This is a sobering moment for each of us," said McHale, a Baltimore Democrat who said the disciplinary action was not a pleasant duty but an essential one."
McConkey offered an apology but also a justification for his actions in promoting an amendment to a real estate bill that the committee determined would have benefited him personally. He said he sought an opinion from the General Assembly's ethics counsel on whether it was proper for him to offer an amendment that would have eased repayment and reinstatement terms for real estate agents who had been fined and suspended by the state Real Estate Commission -- as he had.
"I thought that the ethics opinion justified my position," McConkey said.
But McHale rejected the explanation, saying McConkey sought the opinion too late and failed to grasp its meaning.
"The advice that was sought came after the action was taken," McHale said. He added that "anyone with a clear mind" who read the opinion "could have known it was an act of misconduct to have presented that amendment and to have lobbied both houses to have it passed."
Only three fellow Republicans voted against the reprimand: Del. Donald Dwyer of Anne Arundel County, Del. Glen Glass of Harford and Cecil counties, and Del. Neil Parrott of Washington County.
The ethics committee acted after receiving a complaint from Sen. Edward Reilly, an Anne Arundel County Republican who objected to the McConkey amendment in the closing days of last year's session. According to the ethics committee report, McConkey went to Reilly's office on the last day of the session to confront him about the amendment's removal from the bill. Reilly told the panel McConkey shouted, cursed and refused to leave until the senator summoned police.
McConkey is a third-term delegate who was first elected in 2002. In 2010 he came to an agreement with the Real Estate Commission to settle charges of fraud, misrepresentation and false pretenses against three clients. The commission ordered him to pay $75,000 plus 12 percent interest and administrative costs into a state fund set up to protect consumers from the misconduct of real estate agents.
The penalty has not been fully repaid and McConkey's license remains suspended, the report says. His amendment would have cut the interest rate to 6 percent and eliminated administrative costs. According to the ethics report, McConkey's debt to the fund is the largest in the state.
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