Continues to invest in development projects (he does not have a blind trust)

WASHINGTON — Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is responding to ethics concerns raised over a proposed consulting contract that is tied to a huge transportation project.

The $68.5 million contract, related to Hogan’s $7.6 billion plan to widen parts of the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270, was pulled from consideration Wednesday by the Maryland Board of Public Works, which approves state contracts.

“We held up the approval just to make sure that there isn’t any conflict,” Hogan told WTOP in an interview Friday. “I expressed some of the same concerns that other people have and that’s why the board of public works agreed to hold it up to make sure that we get all the transparency that we need.”

In what has become an election-year debate, state Democrats have criticized the speed with which the contract, sought by HNTB Corp., moved through the Maryland Department of Transportation’s approval process.

The firm was granted a waiver of the state’s usual competitive bid process and gained approval in weeks instead of the months it can typically take.

“This expedited approval process was unanimously approved by the legislature,” Hogan said. “This is probably the most important issue we have. Everybody wants to see the traffic fixed.”

There is also a connection between Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn and HNTB. Rahn worked for the company for five years.

“There is a cloud of scandal surrounding this contract, given Governor Hogan and Secretary Rahn’s cozy relationship with HNTB,” said Maryland Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews. “Taxpayers deserve to know whether there was cronyism, favoritism, and pay-to-play.”

Matthews called on Hogan to release all communications between HNTB and his administration.

Hogan said that would not be a problem.

“If we get a request for information, I think the transportation department would be happy to provide it,” he said.

MDOT spokeswoman Erin Henson issued a statement earlier in the week saying the contract was withdrawn from consideration “to ensure that any questions members of the board have about the project are fully addressed.”