High-profile Maryland lobbyist Bruce Bereano was fined $10,000 in October for a lead paint violation in two Annapolis rowhouses he owns, the state Department of the Environment announced Thursday.
Bereano, who has lobbied state lawmakers for special-interest groups over the past three decades, negotiated an initial $20,000 penalty down to $10,000 in a settlement.
The state says that while renting out the properties, Bereano did not register them for tenancy or have them adequately checked out for environmental risk. Court records show he argued that the buildings, while originally built in 1900, had been gutted and renovated since then, exempting him from the lead poisoning act.
The city responded that despite the renovations, he either needed to register it or have the date of the structure altered. He was eventually fined on Oct. 30.
Bereano still denies violating any environmental ordinances, saying that neither property has — or ever had — lead paint inside or outside the premises. He said he spent about $1,000 to have an expert who was licensed by the department to prove it.
Bereano said he paid the fine as "a pure economic, pragmatic closure of the matter."
"The payment was no admission or acknowledgment of any wrongdoing," he added.
He said he had lived in both houses, in the first block of Pinkney St., at times over the past 35 years.
Bereano was convicted of federal mail fraud in 1994 for taking $16,000 of his clients' money, funneling it through family members and giving it to legislators as political contributions during the 1990 election. He was disbarred in Washington, D.C., fined $30,000 and served sentences in a halfway house and at his home, as well as three years' probation.
He continues working as a lobbyist for dozens of groups in the Maryland State House, and court documents show he requested a rescheduling of his hearing because of his hectic work schedule, which was rejected.
He thinks his reputation in Annapolis factored into the department's fining him.
"I'm sure if my name is not Bruce Bereano, I would not be facing a fine," he said.