Baltimore Council Members Call on President Mosby to Comply with Ethics Order Regarding Legal Defense Fund – Baltimore Sun
Baltimore City Council Speaker Nick Mosby is expected to comply with an ethics committee order to return money raised by a legal defense fund set up to benefit him and his wife, cease fundraising activities fund for the fund and produce a list of donors, a group of city council members said. in a letter to be sent to Mosby on Saturday.
The letter, signed by six of the city’s 15 council members — Kristerfer Burnett, Zeke Cohen, Ryan Dorsey, Phylicia Porter, Odette Ramos and James Torrence — echoes the demands of an order issued Thursday by the City Ethics Board. Baltimore following a month-long investigation into the Legal Defense Fund.
The ethics committee ruled that Mosby violated the city’s ethics law by indirectly accepting money from “vetted donors” for the fund, which was set up for him and his wife, the district attorney. ‘State Marilyn Mosby. The chairman of the board also violated the code of ethics by indirectly soliciting donations to the fund, members of the ethics committee said.
“We are writing to express our dismay at the findings of the Ethics Committee in its investigation of the Mosby Trust, of which you are a beneficiary, and your financial disclosure,” reads the letter from the members of the city council, a copy of which has was obtained by Le Soleil de Baltimore. “We commend the board’s thorough report and diligent explanation of the law, facts and precedent, clearly highlighting violations of the city’s ethics laws.”
The ethics committee released a 17-page decision on Thursday detailing two donations — one of $5,000 and the other of $100 — to the fund by city contractors they consider vetted donors. As chairman of the board, Mosby oversees not only the legislative branch of government, but also the Board of Estimates, Baltimore’s spending council.
According to the Ethics Committee, vetted donors to the council chairperson include anyone who seeks to do business with the city council, the office of the council chairperson, the estimates committee, or any governmental or quasi-governmental entity of the city at which the Chairman of the Board is affiliated. Also included are contractors doing business or seeking to do business with the above groups, and those engaging in activities regulated or controlled by these groups.
Mosby denied violating the city’s code of ethics.
“I am completely perplexed by the council’s conclusions,” he wrote on Thursday. “The council is fully aware that I have never asked, asked or solicited anyone to donate to the ‘legal defense fund’.”
The ethics committee gave Mosby 30 days to tell authorities controlling the legal defense fund to stop all fundraising in its name, return all donations to vetted donors, and provide the board with a list of all fund donors. Within 30 days, Mosby must certify in writing to the board “under penalty of perjury” that he has taken all ordered actions and will not accept any further payments from the fund.
“The Ethics Committee’s Administrative Order provides you with a clear and simple path to correct your multiple ethics violations,” the board’s letter reads. “In the interest of the confidence and morale of the public and the City Council, we ask that you immediately and fully comply with the order.”
The letter stops short of suggesting any type of action the group might seek against the board chairman if he does not comply with their wishes. The signatories represent some of the more liberal members of the all-Democratic council.
If Mosby fails to comply with the order, the Ethics Board has the option to petition the Circuit Court on behalf of the Mayor and City Council to compel him to comply, pursuant to the Ethics Ordinance of the city. A fine of up to $1,000 may also be imposed for each violation. Each day a violation occurs is considered a separate violation under the order.
The city council has the right to request investigative hearings. Former municipal councils had a standing legislative inquiry committee, but no such committee is currently in place. As chairman of the board, Mosby controls the creation of committees, the appointment of members to serve on them, and the assignment of various bills and resolutions to committees.
The Baltimore charter also gives the council the power to remove a council chair, but the threshold is high. A vote of three quarters of the members of the council [12 votes] may impeach the President for “incompetence, misconduct in the performance of his duties, willful neglect of duty, or felony or misdemeanor in the performance of his duties, on charges brought by the Mayor, by the Legislative Inquiries Commission of the City Council, a verified petition signed by at least 20% of the qualified voters of the City of Baltimore, or by the Inspector General, after notice of such charges and an opportunity to be heard by the City Council, shall be given to the President.
Little is known about donors to the legal defense fund, which began accepting contributions in mid-2021. These funds exist outside of state election law and are instead governed by ethics ordinances and rules on gifts to public officials.
According to the city’s ethics board, Mosby’s legal defense fund has received $14,352 in donations as of March 15 from 135 individual donors. The largest individual donation was a $5,000 contribution from the “resident agent” for a contractor who is a minority or woman-owned business and certified by the city. The company was a contractor under a deal being considered by the city’s spending board in 2020 and is considered an ethics committee-monitored donor.
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Prominent supporters and community leaders have encouraged contributions, posting on Facebook and appearing at press conferences, but neither Nick nor Marilyn Mosby reported contributions to the fund in their most recent ethics disclosure statements, due after the creation of the fund.
The prominent political couple were the targets of a federal investigation into their finances which resulted in the indictment of Marilyn Mosby in January on two counts of perjury and two counts of misrepresentation on loan applications to buy two properties in Florida: an eight-bedroom house near Disney World and a condo on the state’s Gulf Coast.
Federal prosecutors say Marilyn Mosby perjured herself by falsely alleging financial hardship because of the coronavirus to make early, penalty-free withdrawals from her municipal retirement savings under the federal CARES Act. They also accused her of failing to disclose a federal tax lien on a mortgage application for a property and of claiming the home near Orlando as a second home to secure lower interest rates when she had already lined up a business to operate it for hire.
Marilyn Mosby has pleaded not guilty and is due to stand trial this fall.
Nick Mosby said on Thursday he had “proactively waived” any interest in the legal defense fund and had never received any money from it.
As a state’s attorney, Marilyn Mosby is governed by the state’s Ethics Ordinance, which is similar to the city’s. When asked if the Maryland State Ethics Commission was investigating similar complaints against the state’s attorney or if it had produced any findings, executive director Jennifer Allgair said the commission was not commenting. nor did it confirm any request for advice, complaint or investigation.
Baltimore Sun reporter Lee O. Sanderlin contributed to this article.