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Baltimore State’s Attorney Mosby won’t let public see work emails about her businesses, citing investigation

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby won’t make public emails that mention her private businesses and are stored on her government computer, arguing that they are exempt from disclosure because they are part of an investigation by Baltimore’s inspector general.

The Baltimore Sun filed a Public Information Act request for all emails that mention three private travel businesses Mosby set up last year but did not initially disclose in her state ethics filings. Her office cited three reasons for not releasing the documents: the ongoing investigation; that they weren’t related to state business; and that they “contain information about the finances of an individual.”

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Mosby also declined a separate request for her companies’ financial records — such as receipts and tax returns — that are not subject to state public records laws. And she refused repeated requests for an interview.

Her written denial brings public acknowledgment that the inspector general has opened a probe into her far-flung travels and private companies.

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Mosby asked the inspector general and State Ethics Commission to review her dealings “in order to dispel conjectures of wrong-doing or corruption,” said Zy Richardson, her spokeswoman.

“We anticipate both entities will find that the State’s Attorney has consistently adhered to statutory requirements and appropriately disclosed all personal matters,” Richardson wrote in an email.

Baltimore Inspector Isabel Mercedes Cumming declined to comment.

Mosby registered three companies last year, writing that Mahogany Elite Consulting would offer legal and consulting services; Mahogany Elite Travel, travel and hospitality services. Mahogany Elite Enterprises LLC is to operate as a holding company, she wrote to register the company.

Richardson has said the companies exist in name only. She said Mosby formed these companies to help underserved Black families vacation “throughout the world at discount prices.”

“This is a long-term venture, hence the reason why there are no clients and she has not received a single cent in revenue,” Richardson wrote. “There are no plans to operate the company while she is state’s attorney.”

News that Baltimore’s top prosecutor — one making nearly $240,000 a year — started a travel and hospitality business while in office raised questions since it was reported last month by the Baltimore Brew. With questions mounting, Mosby insisted she had done nothing wrong and asked the inspector general to investigate.

“I have always been transparent and fully disclosed all information in accordance with my ethical obligation,” Mosby wrote.

Mosby’s office has not responded to additional questions, such as why didn’t she start the business as a nonprofit? Or why would she register the companies shortly after starting a second term in office?

“She’s probably following her internal legal advice and trying not to share too much information before the investigation comes out,” said Tierra Bradford, policy manager for the government watchdog group Common Cause Maryland.

Still, Bradford added, “It’s always better for public officials to err on the side of more transparency.”

In denying the Public Information Act request, Mosby’s office also argued the emails contain financial information and may be withheld. Richardson was asked to reconcile that argument with her statement that the companies had no money. She said that argument was actually referring to the separate request for the tax records.

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With Mosby declining interviews and requests for records, there has been at least one request for the state prosecutor’s office to get involved.

James Cabezas, who served as the state’s chief investigator of public corruption for three decades, has asked the state prosecutor to look into the matter. The state prosecutor has declined to comment.

Cabezas’ request came in response to Mosby’s 2019 financial disclosures to the state Ethics Commission in which she did not disclose her three companies. She later amended the statement to include the companies.

Questions also surround Mosby’s travels while in office. She has disclosed to the Ethics Commission that she traveled at least 20 times for events over the past two years, including trips abroad to Berlin, Portugal and Kenya. Most of the travel — which totaled about $30,000 — was paid for by private organizations.

Mosby remains a sought-after speaker at criminal justice conferences and panels.

She became the youngest chief prosecutor of any major city in 2014, then won re-election four years later. The Sun chronicled Mosby’s travel in 2016, citing gifts and speaking engagement offers she received after filing criminal charges against Baltimore police officers over the death of Freddie Gray.

The website of the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office offers an automated form for organizations to request a visit from Mosby. The form asks groups to provide a guest list for the event and “suggested talking points.”

Typically, an inspector general’s investigation takes several months and concludes with a public report. In instances when the office finds evidence of criminal wrongdoing, it passes its findings to the State Prosecutor’s Office for further investigation.

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