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Baltimore Council members call on President Mosby to comply with ethics order regarding legal defense fund

Emily Opilo, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in News & Features

BALTIMORE — Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby should comply with an ethics board order to return money collected by a legal defense fund established to benefit him and his wife, cease fundraising activities to the fund and produce a list of donors, a group of City Council members said in a letter sent to Mosby 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 Baltimore Board of Ethics following a more than eight-month investigation into the legal defense fund.

The ethics board ruled Mosby violated city ethics law by indirectly accepting money from “controlled donors” to the fund, which was established to benefit him and his wife, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. The council president also violated the ethics code by indirectly soliciting donations to the fund, ethics board members said.

“We write to express to you our dismay at the ethics board’s findings in their investigation of the Mosby Trust, of which you are a beneficiary, and your financial disclosure,” states the City Council members’ letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Baltimore Sun. “We commend the board’s thorough report and diligent explanation of the law, facts and precedent, making unmistakably clear the violations of the city’s ethics laws.”

The ethics board issued a 17-page ruling Thursday detailing two donations — one of $5,000 and another of $100 — to the fund from city contractors they consider controlled donors. As council president, Mosby oversees not just the legislative branch of government, but also the Board of Estimates, Baltimore’s spending board.

According to the ethics board, controlled donors to the council president include anyone who seeks to do business with City Council, the council president’s office, the Board of Estimates or any city governmental or quasi-governmental entity with which the council president is affiliated. Also included are subcontractors doing business with or seeking to do business with the above groups, and those who engage in activities regulated or controlled by those groups.

 

Mosby denied violating the city’s ethics code.

“I am completely perplexed by the board’s findings,” he wrote Thursday. “The board is fully aware that I have never asked, requested, or solicited any person to donate to the ‘legal defense fund.’”

The ethics board gave Mosby 30 days to tell authorities controlling the legal defense fund to stop all fundraising on his behalf, return all donations to controlled donors and provide a list to the board of all donors to the fund. Within 30 days, Mosby must certify to the board in writing “under penalties of perjury” that he has taken all ordered steps and will not accept further payments from the fund.

“The ethics board’s administrative order provides a clear and straightforward path for you to correct your multiple ethics violations,” council’s letter states. “For the sake of the trust and morale of both the public and the City Council, we ask that you immediately and fully comply with the order.”

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