One week after a handful of government relations professionals abruptly left a leading Annapolis lobbying firm – an unusual mass departure shrouded in mystery – they announced Monday that they are hanging their own shingle. The venerable lobbying firm countered by hiring a new director of its government relations practice. But mystery continues to surround the professional fate of the firm’s previous government relations director – who happens to be married to the lead partner of the new lobbying shop.
Maryland Matters reported last week that Alexander & Cleaver, one of the most prominent legal and government affairs shops in Annapolis for more than two decades, had been shaken by the departures of some of its top lobbyists. On Monday, five of those lobbyists – Hannah Powers Garagiola, Tyler Bennett, Moira Moynihan Cyphers, Isaac Meyer and Alexandra Shull – announced that they have formed Compass Government Relations Partners LLC, with offices in Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C. It will become one of the few women-owned firms in the highly competitive world of Annapolis lobbying.
In an interview, Garagiola said she and her colleagues have a variety of political and legislative experience and a range of policy expertise. “It’s an enthusiastic group – a lot of energy, a lot of diversity,” she said. Garagiola said the firm is starting with more than a dozen clients. She declined to name them but said announcements would be forthcoming. Garagiola also declined to say what the professional status of her husband, former state Sen. Robert J. Garagiola, is – except that he is not working for Compass. Rob Garagiola had been the director of the government relations practice at Alexander & Cleaver, and was reportedly part of last week’s mass exodus. Last week, A&C’s partners, Gary R. Alexander and James Cleaver, held open the possibility of legal action against the firm’s departed lobbyists.
Alexander announced late Friday that Brian W. Hammock, most recently a vice president at CSX Transportation, would become the firm’s managing attorney of the government relations practice. “Brian has been a trusted advisor to Maryland’s top elected officials and business leaders over the past two decades,” Alexander said in a memo. Prior to working for CSX, Hammock was a top adviser to then-Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D), both in the State House and when O’Malley was mayor of Baltimore. He also worked for Venable LLC, the law and lobbying firm. Early in his career, he worked for Alexander & Cleaver, making his return “a coming home of sorts,” Alexander said in the memo.