Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby this week asked the city Inspector General’s Office to investigate her travel and financial disclosures.
It’s unusual for an official to seek an investigation of themselves, but the move comes as Mosby weathers criticism of her trips and business arrangements.
“The reality is that I have always been transparent and fully disclosed all information in accordance with my ethical obligation,” Mosby said in a letter this week to Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming.
Cumming said Wednesday her office received the request but, citing department policy, would not confirm undertaking an investigation.
The request comes after Mosby filed financial disclosure statements with the State Ethics Commission, which revealed she traveled at least 20 times for events over the past two years, including trips abroad. Most of the travel — which totaled in the tens of thousands of dollars — was paid for by outside organizations.
Additionally, financial disclosures show she incorporated three businesses, Mahogany Elite Travel, Mahogany Elite Enterprises LLC and Mahogany Elite Consulting, according to her amended filing July 2.
The trips and the businesses were first reported by the Baltimore Brew.
Mosby on Wednesday defended the travel and her new businesses, saying most of her trips to legal conferences and seminars have been been paid for by organizations, not taxpayers. She said the travel business is in the early stages, has no clients and has generated no sales.
Mosby’s letter stated that she created the company to “help underserved black families who don’t usually have the opportunity to travel outside of urban cities, so they can vacation at various destinations throughout the world at affordable rates.”
Joanne Antoine, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, a government watchdog group, said there could be concerns about Mosby starting the travel business while in office.
”If you formed the LLC and are not going to be working it, then why did it need to be formed right now?” Antoine said. “Why not wait until after your term?”
Mosby’s spokeswoman, Zy Richardson, said the business “is a long-term venture. ... There are no plans to operate the company while she is state’s attorney.”
Still, Antoine said, Baltimore leaders should hold themselves to a higher standard as the city reels from the corruption of former Mayor Catherine Pugh, who was sentenced to three years in federal prison. The charges stemmed from a scheme in which she entered into a no-bid deal with the University of Maryland Medical System, where she sat on the board of directors, to buy 100,000 copies of her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books for $500,000.
Antoine said Baltimore officials must work to rebuild public trust. But she praised Mosby for seeking an investigation.
”At least she is doing this correctly and addressing any concerns that the public might have,” Antoine said.
The approximately $30,000 in trips were paid for primarily by nonprofits that back progressive legal reforms, according to documents filed with the state’s ethics commission and records supplied to The Sun by Mosby’s office.
Most of the expenses were listed as “gifted travel,” and about $2,800 was paid by the office for 2018 and 2019, according to the documents. She received a little more than $3,000 in reimbursements for meals and other expenses from the organizations.
Mosby has frequently traveled since taking office, even as the trips drew criticism. In January, in the midst of a public feud with Gov. Larry Hogan over her office’s prosecution record and the city’s rising crime, Mosby left the city and flew to St. Louis to show support to that city’s elected prosecutor.
The Baltimore Sun chronicled Mosby’s travel in 2016, citing gifts and speaking engagement offers she received after filing criminal charges against Baltimore police officers following the death of Freddie Gray.
Mosby took a trip to Berlin and Lisbon for two weeks in May 2019 that was paid for by the Fair and Just Prosecution organization, according to state ethics filings. Director Miriam Aroni Krinsky said in a statement to The Sun that the group invites prosecuting attorneys and elected officials to its events throughout the year.
The goal, she said, is to “foster real-life, interactive opportunities and candid conversations among elected prosecutors, national experts, academics and criminal justice leaders that allow elected prosecutors to share knowledge and best practices with each other.”
Krinsky said her organization pays for travel costs of elected prosecutors and does not compensate them for appearances.
Breaking News Alerts
Richardson said taxpayers have been billed $5,300 for travel over the past three years and that Mosby’s travel benefits the office.
For instance, after traveling to Portual and Germany with “reform-minded” prosecutors, Mosby “testified before the state legislature on the need for safe consumption spaces,” Richardson said. “Our office now does not prosecute drug possession, partly because of what the state’s attorney saw in Portugal.”
Mosby announced in early 2019 her office would stop prosecuting marijuana possession cases, and in March her office announced that it would not prosecute additional types of cases, including low-level drug possession cases in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Richardson said part of the thinking for those decisions came from what Mosby learned on that trip.
The John Jay College, the U.S. Justice Department, the Center for Court Innovation, the United Steelworkers and the Harvard Women’s Law Association also paid for Mosby’s trips.
Mosby concluded her letter saying city residents “have endured far too many corruption scandals and need to know what is and is not illegal.”
Typically, an Inspector General’s Office investigation takes several months and concludes with a publicly available report. In instances when the office observes evidence of possible criminal wrongdoing, it passes its findings to the State Prosecutor’s Office for further investigation.
Richardson said Mosby’s office has not received confirmation from the IG’s office saying whether it will complete an investigation.