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Donoghue: No conflict on tip jars

April 01, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Del. John P. Donoghue once handled investments for a group he joined forces with this week to oppose a local tip jar gambling bill.

But Donoghue said Wednesday his position on the legislation does not represent a conflict of interest with his investment work as an employee of Legg Mason in Hagerstown.

"This has gotten so out of hand," said Donoghue, D-Washington, who on Tuesday came under fire from local lawmakers for speaking against the bill on the House floor.

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Legg Mason is listed as holding $11,887 in investments for the Washington County Restaurant and Beverage Association Charitable Foundation Inc. on the nonprofit's 2002 tax return.

Donoghue and foundation President Lou Thomas acknowledged that Donoghue once handled the account, but said the nonprofit now has little, if any, money left.

Donoghue made a plea on the floor of the House of Delegates to kill a Washington County bill being heavily lobbied against by the association, whose officers are the same as the charitable foundation's.

The bill that passed the House of Delegates 74-55 on Monday would prevent the association, whose members sell tip jars, from becoming a tip jar wholesaler.

Gaming Director Dan DiVito said there needs to be a buffer between those who sell the jars and those who sell the supplies because he compares reports from the two groups to detect fraud.

Donoghue said he opposes the bill because the dispute is before an administrative law judge.

The association is challenging the Washington County Commissioners' right to prevent the association from becoming a wholesaler.

"All it does is force the issue and make the decision for the judge," Donoghue said of the bill. "To me that's not fair."

William G. Somerville, who advises lawmakers on ethics, said Donoghue disclosed his employment with the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics as required by law.

The tip jar bill now heads to the Senate, where Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said he expects to face more lobbyist opposition.

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