ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Gov. Larry Hogan directed state transportation officials on Friday to seek a new contract for a multimillion highway expansion after a news report raised questions about ties between Maryland’s transportation secretary and the winning bidder.
Hogan said the $68.5 million deal that was supposed to go before a board this week “lacked the clarity needed to ensure full faith in this process.”
In a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, Hogan wrote that the department used a waiver process made possible by procurement reform approved last year by the General Assembly relating to public-private partnerships to create a more flexible and efficient process.
“However, a focus on speed cannot and should not ever come at the expense of the full and complete transparency that the taxpayers of Maryland expect and deserve,” Hogan wrote.
The governor also wrote he has been committed to the highest level of transparency from the beginning of his administration.
“I am not satisfied that our threshold for transparency has been met in this case,” Hogan wrote. “However unintentionally, the department’s communications with the state’s chief fiscal officers on the Board of Public Works, upon which I sit, as well as the public, have lacked the clarity need to ensure full faith in this process.”
The contract was pulled from the Board of Public Works agenda after The Daily Record reported on questions about ties between Rahn and the winning bidder. Rahn was employed by the consortium leader in the contract, HNTB Corp., before he joined Hogan’s administration.
Rahn told the newspaper Monday that the Maryland State Ethics Commission cleared his involvement two weeks ago. He said his dinner with an HNTB executive was a get-together with a friend that he paid for himself. He also said he doesn’t currently have stock or financial ties to the company.
The interview was the first time he had disclosed he previously did own stock in the company. The Daily Record reported Wednesday that Rahn will amend his state financial disclosure filings after failing to disclose the ownership and later sale of HNTB stock.
Rahn said in a statement Friday he will not be involved in the new procurement process.
“While all of our actions during this process were consistent with state law, policies and procedures governing this type of procurement, I nevertheless should have been more aware that this complicated process would give rise to questions,” Rahn said.
The contract would have paid a consortium of companies to oversee part of Hogan’s $7.6 billion highway expansion plan to relieve traffic congestion in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. HTNB was to be the leader of the consortium.
Hogan directed the transportation department to work closely with legislative leaders, stakeholders and members of the Board of Public Works, which is comprised of Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp.
“The State Highway Administration will be conducting the procurement as quickly as possible to keep the Traffic Relief Plan moving forward,” said Erin Henson, a spokeswoman for the transportation department.