- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 5, 2013

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland House of Delegates voted 127-3 on Tuesday to reprimand a lawmaker for trying to change legislation in a way that would have helped him get his suspended real estate license back.

The vote came a day after a legislative ethics committee recommended the House reprimand Delegate Tony McConkey, Anne Arundel Republican, for pushing hard for the amendments in the waning days of last year’s legislative session that personally benefited him. For example, the changes he sought would have reduced the interest on $75,000 he owed a fund for improper real estate services relating to three clients.

“The law relating to legislator conflict of interest is clear,” said Delegate Brian K. McHale, Baltimore Democrat, who is a co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics. “A member may not participate in a legislative issue if that member will derive a direct and personal financial benefit from it.”

Mr. McConkey apologized for his conduct. He said he believed an opinion he received from the General Assembly’s ethics adviser at the time supported him.

“I thought the ethics opinion supported my position,” Mr. McConkey said.

However, after Mr. McConkey finished explaining his view of what happened, Mr. McHale said he felt compelled to note that Mr. McConkey sought the advice of the adviser only after he already had taken action to get the amendments passed. Mr. McHale also said anyone with a clear mind who would have read the advice of legislative counsel would have known it was “an act of misconduct to have presented that amendment and to have lobbied both houses to have it passed.”

Mr. McConkey entered into a settlement in 2010 for charges he committed fraud, misrepresentation and false pretenses against three clients, according to the ethics report. The State Real Estate Commission required Mr. McConkey to pay $75,000 to the state’s Real Estate Guaranty Fund, or about $25,000 for each client. Mr. McConkey’s real estate license has been suspended until he reimburses the fund in full, including all interest and administrative charges.

The ethics panel found unanimously that Mr. McConkey participated in, drafted, offered, lobbied and voted for amendments to the bill and “that a clear and direct financial impact would have flowed to Delegate McConkey as a result of passage of the amendments, in the form of thousands of dollars in reduced interest charges, no administrative charges, and possible reinstatement of his real estate salesperson license.”

The ethics complaint was filed by Sen. Edward R. Reilly, Anne Arundel Republican. Mr. McConkey approached Mr. Reilly on the last day of the legislative session and asked the senator to support the bill. Mr. Reilly told the delegate he did not support the amendments Mr. McConkey wanted because of concerns raised by a story in The Washington Post about how the changes could benefit Mr. McConkey.

“Senator Reilly stated that Delegate McConkey shouted at and cursed the senator and refused to leave his office,” the ethics report said. “Senator Reilly then called the Maryland State Police, Legislative Security Section, who escorted Delegate McConkey from Senator Reilly’s office.”

Later that day, a panel of House and Senate lawmakers removed the amendments favored by Mr. McConkey from the bill, which subsequently passed without them.

A reprimand is a lesser disciplinary action lawmakers can take against one of their own. It is basically a formal recognition of an ethics violation. Lawmakers also can censure or expel legislators for ethical transgressions.

Three lawmakers voted against the reprimand, including Delegates Don H. Dwyer Jr., Anne Arundel Republican, Neil C. Parrott, Washington Republican, and Glen Glass, Harford Republican. Mr. McConkey did not vote.