A judge today concluded that City Council President Nick Mosby violated Baltimore’s ethics law by indirectly soliciting donations for a legal defense fund in his name and by failing to disclose the fund on his annual ethics filing.
“He could have formally disclaimed membership interest,” Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill said. “But he did not do that.”
Fletcher-Hill rejected a third ethics charge that Mosby accepted gifts from “controlled donors,” or people who seek to do business with city government.
The evidence in support of that alleged violation was “weak,” Fletcher-Hill said at the virtual hearing.
His ruling was a major juncture in the nearly year-long case, but it left unclear what penalty, if any, Mosby faces for the two ethics violations.
City law allows the ethics board to assess up to a $1,000-a-day fine for failure to follow its orders. Fletcher-Hill left the decision of a possible fine to the board, noting that Mosby as well as the board have the option of appealing his decision.
Over $14,000 Raised
The ethics charges centered on a legal defense trust set up two years ago as Mosby and his wife, then-Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, faced a federal criminal investigation into their financial affairs.
Marilyn Mosby was indicted last year on four counts of perjury and making false statements. (Her trial, most recently scheduled to take place next month, was delayed and is now likely to be placed on the court’s calendar in the fall.)
Nick Mosby was not charged in the indictment, but was cited last May by the city Ethics Board as part of its own investigation of the legal defense fund.
Using the names, credentials and pictures of the Mosbys, the fund raised over $14,000, including $5,100 from controlled donors.
The board ordered the City Council president to “disclaim” any beneficiary interest in the fund, release the names of donors and return money given by controlled donors.
Mosby refused and filed for a judicial review pro se, or without the help of an attorney, last June.
After saying he was unable to find a lawyer, Mosby found one and was to go before Fletcher-Hill last month with attorney Robert Fulton Dashiell.
The ethics board said it needed more time to response to Dashiell’s arguments, which prompted Fletcher-Hill to grant another delay before today’s hearing.