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Mayor Pugh calls aide found guilty of election violation 'a good employee,' stands by him

Mayor Catherine Pugh said Wednesday she stands by an aide who was found guilty this week of violating election laws for funneling money to her campaign.

The mayor said she has not looked into where Gary Brown Jr. got the money used to make illegal campaign contributions.

"As far as I am concerned — I have not read the transcripts, I don't know all of the particulars, I wasn't in court but — the Gary Brown that I know has been a good employee for years," Pugh said.

Brown, 35, makes $46,000 annually as a member of the mayor's communications team. He was a legislative aide for Pugh while she was a member of the state Senate.

On Tuesday, Brown entered an Alford plea in Baltimore Circuit Court to two counts of making illegal campaign contributions. He had been scheduled to go on trial this week. The plea allowed him to acknowledge that prosecutors had enough evidence to win a conviction while formally maintaining his innocence.

The contributions in question totaled $18,000, three times the $6,000 limit any one person can give during a campaign cycle. Prosecutors say Brown deposited cash into the bank accounts of three family members before last year's Democratic primary for mayor. He then immediately contributed that money to the Pugh campaign in the names of his mother, brother and stepfather.

Brown gave Pugh's campaign about $300 in his own name.

The source of the $18,000 remains unknown, according to prosecutors.

Asked if she looked into the source of the money, Pugh said, "No, I have not."

Does she stand by him? "Oh, I do."

Pugh said little when asked what Brown's violation says about her campaign's compliance with election law.

"Well, as far as I know, the campaign complied with election laws," Pugh said. "I am sure there were many questions as it relates to the campaign, but that's a personnel matter as it relates to Gary Brown."

Brown received a sentence of probation before judgment on one year of supervised probation. If he successfully completes the probation, Brown can erase the conviction.

The Office of the State Prosecutor is continuing to investigate the Pugh campaign over a complaint that $66,000 in checks sent to the campaign bounced.

In a third matter, the prosecutor's office fined a political slate funded by former Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. $3,000 for making an unlawful $100,000 loan to Pugh in the final days of the primary.

Smith now serves as Pugh's chief of strategic alliances.

ywenger@baltsun.com

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