Exum Scrapped Regulations for his Employer
O’Malley Watch has been all over the Exum-O’Malley influence peddling in the Hilltop affair.
A Senate committee that Sen. Nathaniel Exum (D-Prince George’s) serves on voted to exempt a class of scrap metal businesses that includes his employer from legislation that would require extensive new reporting to police.
Exum, the safety officer for Joseph Smith and Sons Inc., took an active role in crafting the bill while serving on a work group. Joseph Smith was one of two companies that participated in the group; the other was a Baltimore dealer regulated by the city.
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The bill, which passed the full Senate unanimously last month, is intended to help police crack down on a growing problem of scrap metal theft from construction sites, cars and even highways, where thieves are ripping out guardrails and selling them. The thieves are capitalizing on high commodity prices for copper and other metals.
Police in several counties have urged lawmakers to help by requiring junkyards to send them daily reports of scrap purchases that disclose the price they paid and the identity of the seller. Joseph Smith is one of the biggest scrap dealers in Maryland, with a brisk business processing metal as well as dismantling and recycling cars.
When the reporting bill was introduced by Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr. (D-Anne Arundel), Exum told Finance Committee Chairman Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles) that he wanted to take the lead in preparing it. Middleton turned him down, saying that leading it would create the appearance of a conflict of interest.
It is not uncommon for lawmakers to vote on issues that involve their jobs outside the General Assembly. Exum disclosed to the state ethics commission that he might have a potential conflict in voting for the bill. However, the commission said state law did not require him to recuse himself from deliberations or voting, because the legislation affects other companies in addition to his.
He declined to comment on his role in preparing the legislation.
Exum and several Joseph Smith executives who participated in the work group resisted attempts by police to require more reporting. Joseph Smith officials said their clients’ privacy could be invaded.
When it was time to vote on the bill, the Senate Finance Committee added an
amendment that exempts auto dismantlers and recyclers from reporting. Lobbyists for those companies said their clients are already covered by a state law that requires limited reporting to police.
The amendment exempted Joseph Smith and other large companies that recycle cars as well as scrap. Exum did not mention that at the voting session, and several senators said later that they did not understand they had voted to exempt most companies the bill was designed to regulate.
Sen. John C. Astle (D-Anne Arundel), who led the work group, said he is not an expert on the scrap business. “We had to rely on people in the industry who were feeding us information piece by piece. It wasn’t until after the fact that we realized we might have been spun.
The bill failed in conference committee because the House wanted to put the exempted businesses back in the bill.
And there, behind a large black television, is the biggest portrait, framed in gold and lit up like a shrine. It’s Broadwater with Maryland state senator
and political ally Nathaniel Exum (D-Prince George’s).
“We’re very close,” said Broadwater, looking up at the photo.
In April, Exum amended a legislative bill to exempt the Ebony Inn from having to fire Chocolate and Vanilla.
Chocolate and Vanilla were two strippers who work at the Broadwater owned Ebony Inn, which Exum exempted from a 2005 state law barring nudity and sexual displays at establishments in PG County that sell alcohol.