The Maryland Democratic Party called on Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, his campaign and his administration Thursday to release all correspondence with the transportation company HNTB Corp., whose proposed contract with the state has come under ethics scrutiny this week.
The move escalates an election-year controversy over how state transportation officials recommended a company to oversee one of Hogan's signature initiatives to reduce traffic congestion in the Washington suburbs.
The governor's reelection campaign officials referred the matter to the administration.
Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse said the administration "has no problem releasing public records whenever anyone files a Public Information Act request."
The state's Democratic Party noted that HNTB, a national transportation company, has donated the maximum amount — $12,000 — to Hogan's reelection campaign. The company also contributed $90,000 to the Republican Governor's Association.
The firm also, as Chasse pointed out, donated to Democrats including former governor Martin O'Malley, whose administration approved contracts with HNTB.
"Most people would call that hypocrisy," she said.
HNTB is a lead firm in a consortium recommended by state transportation officials for a $68.5 million consulting contract to oversee planning for Hogan's $7.6 billion plan to install 75 miles of toll lanes on Interstate 270 and I-495 in Maryland.
The consortium was picked in a new and expedited process that has come under scrutiny because of Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn's ties to the firm. Rahn left a job at HNTB to work for the Hogan administration.
Rahn dined with a friend who works for HNTB during the bid selection process, and he signed the waiver to use the expedited process that picked the consulting company's consortium in less than a month. The more traditional process for such contracts can take as long as two years.
Rahn sought and received advice from state ethics officials that he could participate in a process involving his former employer so long as he had no financial interest in the firm. Rahn said that he does not.
The Board of Public Works delayed a final vote scheduled for Wednesday on the proposed contract so that Democratic Treasurer Nancy Kopp could learn more about the procurement process and Rahn's role.
Maryland Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews said in a statement that the contract was under a "cloud of scandal" and urged the Hogan administration and campaign to release all correspondence with the company.
"Maryland taxpayers deserve to know whether there was cronyism, favoritism, and pay-to-play," Matthews said.