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Jill Carter resigns seat in House of Delegates, joins Pugh administration

Jill Carter resigns seat in House of Delegates, leaving vacancy in Baltimore delegation.

Del. Jill Carter has resigned her seat in the House of Delegates to take a job in Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh's administration.

In a letter dated Dec. 23, Carter told House Speaker Michael E. Busch her resignation will take effect Monday. Pugh announced Friday that she has appointed Carter as director of the city’s Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement.

Carter, 52, has represented Baltimore's 41st District in the House since 2003. In her new position starting Tuesday, Carter will oversee investigations of police brutality, wage theft and a host of alleged civil rights violations.

She will earn $100,000 a year.

“Civil rights has been my passion for my entire life,” said Carter, a Democrat. “I see tremendous opportunity. The Office of Civil Rights has been under the radar. My vision is to open it up for the people.”

Pugh said in a statement that she chose Carter for the job because of her “legal and judicial background, as well as her legislative and community experiences.”

The mayor praised Carter as “a great colleague over my past 11 years in Annapolis” who partnered with her on passing legislation.

Carter replaces Kisha A. Brown, who earned $102,000 a year.

The office oversees the city’s civilian review board, wage commission and community relations commission. Carter will be charged with enforcing the city’s civil rights laws, including providing minimum wages, hiring ex-offenders and enforcing anti-discrimination policies.

The civilian review board investigates alleged misconduct in the city police department, the school system's police force, the city sheriff’s office, the environmental police and other agencies.

Federal investigators with the U.S. Department of Justice concluded in a sweeping review of the city police department that the civilian review board has been largely ineffective, in part due to lack of resources and limited authority. The board’s recommendations in police discipline cases routinely have been disregarded.

Carter said she wants to make the board to be more effective. Debate is ongoing about whether to give the board more power.

“I see it as an avenue for justice,” Carter said. “Many of the things I fought for as a delegate I have an opportunity to achieve through this office. The challenge for me is, this office needs to be opened up to the people. It is the people’s office.”

Carter also called herself a “strong proponent of a living wage.” She said wage rights can be achieved not only through legislation, but through enforcement. Efforts are underway in the city to raise Baltimore’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

During her 14 years in the House, Carter served on the Judiciary Committee. On that panel, she has been a vocal proponent of police accountability and less punitive approaches to crime. Carter frequently sponsored legislation to make it easier to get past criminal offenses expunged from a person's record. Many were defeated, but she scored a victory in 2015 on a bill removing barriers to expungement.

Carter briefly considered running for mayor in 2016 but decided instead to endorse Pugh.

City Councilman Brandon M. Scott, chairman of the public safety committee, said Pugh’s appointment of Carter shows the new mayor is serious about criminal justice reform.

Scott said more people will feel comfortable going to the office with their complaints because of Carter’s background in the city and work with constituents.

“We know she will be open and accessible, and I am hopeful she will push the envelop for change,” Scott said. 

The resignation leaves a vacancy in the 41st District, where politics have been complicated recently by the illness of Democratic Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, who has multiple sclerosis.

Gladden missed the second half of this year's session and her ability to return to Annapolis for the session that starts Jan. 11 is questionable. In recent weeks, she has not returned calls or emails seeking information on her condition or her plans.

It will be up to the 41st District Democratic Central Committee to choose a successor to Carter and to fill a Senate vacancy if it does occur. Its recommendations to Gov. Larry Hogan would be binding under Maryland's Constitution.

Carter is the third city delegate to leave the House since the mayoral election. Pete Hammen, a Democrat who represented Southeast and South Baltimore's 46th District, resigned to become Pugh's chief of operations. Del. Barbara Robinson, a Democrat, was appointed to the 40th District Senate seat vacated by Pugh.

Hogan formalized the appointment of Robbyn Lewis, the Democrat chosen by her central committee, to succeed Hammen on Friday. Robinson was sworn in as a senator earlier.

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