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Advocacy group files complaint with state ethics commission about Maryland Gov. Hogan’s business arrangement

The group Public Citizen filed an ethics complaint Wednesday against Gov. Larry Hogan, alleging that he made a funding decision that benefited his real estate company.
The group Public Citizen filed an ethics complaint Wednesday against Gov. Larry Hogan, alleging that he made a funding decision that benefited his real estate company.(Kenneth K. Lam)

The watchdog group Public Citizen has filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission, asking it to investigate whether Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has conflicts of interest due to his business deals.

Hogan earns income from his real estate business, Annapolis-based HOGAN, while serving in office. A trust manages the business, but the governor receives updates on the company’s affairs under an arrangement the commission approved in 2016, after Hogan was first elected in 2014. HOGAN, formerly called the Hogan Cos., is currently run by the governor’s brother, Timothy Hogan.

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While the trust agreement was worked out, the commission gave Hogan guidance that cautioned him to follow ethics laws prohibiting personal gain from his office and sharing confidential government information with his business. The guidance also instructed the governor to avoid conflicts of interest.

In its complaint Wednesday, Public Citizen said the governor appeared to have violated ethics laws when he included funding in a 2015 budget for a highway interchange in Brandywine, near several properties the company owns. The group also asked the commission to re-evaluate the trust arrangement.

"We are completely transparent and every single thing that I have any interest in, we turn it over to the Ethics Commission, which is available to the public,” he said last month.

He previously touted the Brandywine interchange as a way to “help remove a major bottleneck in Prince George’s County.”

Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci responded Wednesday to the Public Citizen complaint with a statement: “The ethics commission developed and implemented an agreement with the governor that goes further than Maryland’s ethics laws and has been followed to the letter. This is an activist organization peddling delusions that have been debunked time and again.”

Commission Director Michael W. Lord declined to comment on the complaint.

Maryland’s Green Party filed a similar complaint Thursday with the commission, citing the Brandywine road project, as well as other actions it found questionable, such as state funding for road and crosswalk improvements near a HOGAN property in Hyattsville in 2017 and the company’s auction purchase of a State Highway Administration property in Severn in 2014.

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The governor’s office declined to comment on the Green Party complaint.

During the 2018 campaign, Hogan released tax returns showing he had made about $2.4 million — mostly from the real estate business — since being elected in 2014 to the first of his two four-year terms. Due to term limits, he cannot run again for governor.

The governor is required to file annual financial disclosures. In his 2019 filing, Hogan reported having an ownership interest in 43 limited liability companies, including four new ones.

Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.

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