Baltimore Council President Nick Mosby Violated Ethics Act By Accepting Money From City Contractors Via Legal Defense Fund, Board Rules – Baltimore Sun
Baltimore City Council Speaker Nick Mosby violated the city’s ethics ordinance by indirectly soliciting a legal defense fund that received donations from at least two city contractors, the city said Thursday. city ethics board in a decision ordering Mosby to stop accepting money from the fund.
The fund, created for his legal defense and that of his wife, prosecutor Marilyn Mosby, received a $100 donation from the executive director of a nonprofit that received a multi-thousand-dollar grant in March.
A donation of $5,000, the largest individual contribution to the fund, was received in August from the “resident agent” of a contractor who is a city-certified minority or woman-owned business. The company was a contractor under a deal the city’s spending board was considering in 2020, according to the ethics board.
The decision does not name the donors or further identify their ties to the city, but the two are considered “controlled donors” under the city’s ethics law, which prohibits elected officials from receiving contributions. of these donors, solicited or not.
The council also found that Nick Mosby violated a provision of the law prohibiting him from soliciting donations, directly or indirectly, from vetted donors.
An order issued by the ethics board on Thursday calls on the chairman of the board to immediately stop receiving donations from the fund and to ask the fund to cease all fundraising on his behalf. Nick Mosby should also request that a list be provided to the ethics committee of all donors and donations to the fund.
So far, there has been no public accounting of donations to the fund, which opened for donations in mid-2021 to help the power couple defend against a federal criminal tax investigation.
Prominent supporters and community leaders have encouraged contributions, posted on Facebook and attended press conferences, but Marilyn Mosby reported no donations to the fund when she last filed an ethics disclosure statement in April. Nick Mosby’s next ethics statement isn’t expected until January.
According to a decision by the board on Thursday, the fund has received $14,352 in donations as of March 15 from 135 individual donors. The board subpoenaed Donorbox, the trust’s fundraising platform, and Stripe Inc., the payment processor. Donorbox did not comply with the subpoena, according to the board’s report.
In a letter sent to city council members and Mayor Brandon Scott on Thursday, the ethics committee issued a notice of finding so the two can take “appropriate action as required by the Ethics Act.” The quoted part of the Ethics Act does not specify what measures can be taken.
According to the council’s 17-page ruling, the investigation into Mosby’s legal defense fund began with two complaints filed in August. The ruling does not specify who filed the complaints. That same month, the council warned Nick Mosby of “significant restrictions” the Ethics Act places on his ability to solicit and accept donations. The council also requested the identity of the trustees controlling the legal defense fund and information about the process used to screen donations, in accordance with its decision.
According to the board, the fund was set up as a trust controlled by two unidentified people who have a “social relationship” with Nick Mosby. The trust is represented by counsel from Reed Smith, a Washington, DC-based law firm that also represents Marilyn Mosby in her criminal defense.
The Mosbys were at the center of a federal investigation into their finances that resulted in the indictment of Marilyn Mosby in January on two counts of perjury and two counts of misrepresentation on loan applications to purchase two properties in Florida: a eight-bedroom home near Disney World and a condo on the state’s Gulf Coast. Nick Mosby hasn’t been charged with anything.
Federal prosecutors say 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 lined up a business to operate on a rental basis.
In October, a lawyer for the legal defense fund refused to turn over the fund’s records to the ethics board, citing solicitor-client privilege. In the same correspondence, the attorney said the defense fund was not a “fundraiser” and said he was not aware of any “fundraising activity”.
At the time, the fund had already received $7,718 in donations, according to the board’s report.
On two occasions, ethics council director Jeffrey Hochstetler made test donations to the legal defense fund to confirm whether the group was verifying the origin of the donations, according to the council’s report. The donations, made in August and October, used a pseudonym and a nonexistent physical address.
Baltimore’s Ethics Ordinance prohibits public officials from receiving donations from vetted donors as well as soliciting them, directly or indirectly.
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In the case of Nick Mosby, vetted donors are considered to be anyone who seeks to do business with the City Council, the Office of the Council President, the Estimates Committee, or any governmental or quasi-governmental entity of the city to 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.
Donations from people who are not vetted donors must still be disclosed under the city’s ethics ordinance if received from more than one type of key person.
More specifically, elected officials must disclose on their annual ethics form donations from persons or entities that do business with the City, those regulated by the City and registered lobbyists. The city’s ethics law requires listing gifts over $20. Two or more gifts with a cumulative value of $100 from a person or entity must also be declared.
The state Ethics Act, which regulates Marilyn Mosby, includes the same provisions. State Ethics Commission Executive Director Jennifer Allgair did not return requests for comment Thursday afternoon.
This article will be updated.
Baltimore Sun reporter Lee O. Sanderlin contributed to this report.