A Tampa-based consulting firm partially owned by a Smith Barney managing director has made political contributions to a Florida county commissioner following the recent issuance of a federal rule limiting donations to state and local officials.
The firm, L. Garry Smith & Associates, with offices in Tampa and Tallahassee, Fla., contributed $300 to Jim Norman, a commissioner in Hillsborough County, Fla. Norman is one of seven commissioners, who ultimately determine the selection of firms to serve on negotiated bond syndicates for the county.
Norman also serves as Hillsborough County's representative on a five-member board of directors for the county's aviation authority. The authority, in October 1993, sold $72 million of new-money bonds for an air terminal. Smith Barney served as lead manager for the issue.
Until about a year ago, the consulting firm had been solely owned by L. Garry Smith, a Smith Barney public finance official who works in the firm's Tampa office. At some point in 1993, Smith, who started the consulting practice in 1981, sold 52% of the firm to his daughter, Julie S. Myers, and son-in-law, Matt Bryan, a Smith Barney spokesman said. Myers is the firm's general counsel and vice president; Bryan, the firm's president. "The remainder will be paid off in installments over a period of time," said Robert Connor, a Smith Barney spokesman.
In addition to the firm, three other high-ranking members of the Tampa-based consulting practice also gave contributions to Norman. Myers gave $100; Bryan gave $300; and James E. Wurdeman, the firm's treasurer, $100. All contributions, including the firm's, were dated June 24, 1994, according to disclosure records filed with the Hillsborough County supervisor of elections.
According to the latest records obtained from the Florida secretary of state's office, L. Garry Smith, a managing director at Smith Barney, is listed as a director of the consulting practice. Connor of Smith Barney confirmed that Smith is a director of the consulting company. He said, however, that Smith is selling his remaining share of the practice to Myers and Bryan and that, despite his title, Smith has no involvement in the consulting firm's activities.
Smith did not return telephone calls, but through a secretary referred all inquiries to Smith Barney's public relations office in New York City.
The contributions come at a time when a new federal role, imposed by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, aims to keep municipal finance executives from using contributions as a way of winning bond business.
The rule, known as G-37, does not ban contributions to state and local bond issuers. Instead, the rule prevents firms from doing business for a period of two years in areas of the country where dealers have violated its clauses.
Under the rule, which took effect April 25, dealers can make contributions to municipal bond issuers but only in jurisdictions where the dealer is registered to vote. The contribution cannot exceed $250, the rule says.
Connor of Smith Barney said Smith had no connection to the contributions made by his daughter, sonin-law, or the firm itself, and thus violated no rules that may prevent Smith Barney from doing business in the county.
"Our Garry Smith has no role or influence as to who gives at the firm or who it gives money to," Connor said.
But Christopher Taylor, executive director of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, said the campaign gift appears troubling.
"Smith Barney will have to show that this contribution was not made by Garry Smith directly, indirectly, or solicited by Garry Smith," Taylor said.
The federal rule also bars dealers from making indirect contributions, such as funneling gifts to issuers through friends, spouses, or other conduits
Norman, in a telephone interview yesterday, said he and Smith are longtime friends and that they discussed regulatory problems for Smith Barney that might result from a direct contribution from Smith.
Norman said Smith "assured" him that following the change in ownership of the firm last year, Smith had "no involvement" in the consulting firm.
Norman said Smith has never approached him on the subject of the aviation authority's bond business or county bond issues. Since 1985, Smith Barney served as senior manager on $1.3 billion of bonds sold by the county, its aviation authority, and other county-related issues, according to Securities Data Co.
A Norman fund-raising party was held in a Tampa restaurant on June 24 by Bryan, and Bryan presented the check from the consulting firm, Norman said. Smith was aware of the problems of giving the check directly, Norman said. Norman said he could not recall if Smith attended the party, but said it was a "possibility."
Under guidelines established by the rulemaking board, firms must report to the MSRB all contributions to municipal bond issuers. Firms must also list names of consultants who are used to find bond deals. The National Association of Securities Dealers, a self-regulatory organization, provides front-line enforcement of the rules.
The latest reporting period covers all contributions from April 25, 1994, through July 31. According to records obtained by the rulemaking board, Smith Barney listed no contributions during that period.
Smith's ties to Norman include a recent fund-raiser for the greater Tampa unit of the American Cancer Society, according to a brochure published by the group.
The brochure, handed out prior to the society's "Jail and Bail" fundraiser held June 7 through June 9, listed "Garry Smith, L. Garry Smith & Associates" as one of 11 primary organizers of the event. Norman was honorary chief in charge of fundraising for the event, the brochure said.
Vicky Stamas contributed to this article.