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Lobbyist rejected for license return

Bruce C. Bereano, one of Annapolis' top lobbyists, will appeal to Maryland's highest court to overturn a suspension of his lobbying license, his attorney said yesterday.

The Court of Special Appeals issued an amended ruling yesterday, reiterating its November decision that upheld Ethics Commission sanctions against the lobbyist for entering into a contract that paid him in part based on his success at securing government work for a client.

Bereano is fighting a 10-month suspension of his lobbying license and a $5,000 fine.

The lobbyist, a constant presence in the General Assembly representing dozens of clients in industries ranging from tobacco to health care, has maintained his innocence and claimed the courts were misinterpreting the law. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

His attorney, Timothy F. Maloney, said Bereano will appeal.

"Mr. Bereano will be asking the Court of Appeals to review today's decision," Maloney said in a statement. "By law, he will continue to lobby during the appellate process."

Bereano's case stemmed from his appeal of a 2003 Ethics Commission decision that found he had entered into a "contingency contract," that is, an arrangement that paid him more based on his success or failure at generating government business.

In 2001, Mercer Ventures Inc., a company seeking government contracts for foster care services, agreed to pay Bereano 1 percent of its first year receivables on any contracts he helped it win with the state.

Bereano argued that the contract did not amount to a contingency and that the ethics commission was applying a 2001 law retroactively.

The Howard County Circuit Court upheld the ethics commission's decision, and Bereano lost again at the Court of Special Appeals in November. He has been able to continue lobbying while his appeals were pending.

His ability to work with the executive branch was curtailed by Gov. Martin O'Malley's promise if elected not to meet with any lobbyists who are convicted felons, a stab at Bereano, who supported O'Malley's opponent in the election and who was convicted of mail fraud in an unrelated incident 10 years ago.

O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said the governor had no comment on yesterday's court ruling, but he confirmed that the governor has kept his pledge not to work with Bereano.

The governor's promise seemed to have little effect on Bereano's workload. He was involved in several key issues this year, including the debate over banning smoking in bars and restaurants.

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