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Baltimore County Del. Jay Jalisi ordered to pay over $19,500, including wages never paid, to ex-employee

Delegate Jay Jalisi is interviewed in his office at the House of Delegates building.
Delegate Jay Jalisi is interviewed in his office at the House of Delegates building. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun)

Del. Jay Jalisi has been ordered by a District Court judge to pay more than $19,500 in back pay and damages to a former legislative aide who says he was never paid for the month he worked for the Baltimore County representative last year.

According to an attorney for the former staffer, the Office of the Comptroller and Office of the Attorney General this week received the writ of garnishment against the Reisterstown Democrat’s state salary to pay back Brian Agandi, the ex-employee, $2,620 for his monthlong employment in Jalisi’s Annapolis office.

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Baltimore County District Court Judge Philip Tirabassi in a bench trial this month ordered the writ of garnishment, ruling that Jalisi violated state labor and employment statutes.

He awarded Agandi a principal amount of $2,200, then doubled it by ordering the delegate to pay another $2,200 in damages, and added $132 in interest and $15,000 in legal fees for a total of $19,583.

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Jalisi has appealed the ruling, which under state law could require him to give up to 25% of each paycheck earned until the debt is paid off; state legislators, other than the Senate president and speaker of the House, earn an annual salary of $50,330, according to the General Assembly Compensation Committee.

Jalisi, 54, and his attorney, Adam Spence with The Law Offices of Spence, Brierley in Towson, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday afternoon.

In a pretrial legal memorandum, Jalisi’s lawyers argued that he was protected under legislative immunity, which protects elected officials from legal liability for legislative actions taken.

Tirabassi rejected that defense, according to Agandi’s attorney, H. Mark Stichel, with the law firm Astrachan Gunst Thomas, on the grounds that personnel decisions are considered administrative, not legislative, functions.

Jalisi, who was formally reprimanded by his colleagues in the General Assembly last year for a pattern of abusive behavior toward his staff, had been barred by the late House Speaker Michael Busch from hiring staff paid by the state until he completed anger management classes, which Agandi’s attorney said had not occurred when the lawsuit was filed.

Stichel alleged that Jalisi intentionally misrepresented his ability to hire Agandi when, in December 2018, he told Agandi he would be paid $20 an hour for 32 hours of work a week.

Stichel said Tirabassi dismissed that claim, saying that the plaintiff’s attorneys could not prove with clear and convincing evidence that Jalisi purposely misled Agandi when he hired him.

“It is a correct decision,” Stichel said of the ruling, but “I would have liked to see treble damages. ... I also believe Del. Jalisi intentionally misled.”

Agandi, who had quit his job as a security guard to work for Jalisi, terminated his employment Jan. 31 after never receiving payment, despite verbal assurances from the District 10 delegate that he would be paid, according to the lawsuit.

The Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, which investigated the complaints, also found that Jalisi, who has served in the House of Delegates since 2015, forced staff to work overtime, but then would not sign off on their time cards.

Jalisi said at the time the accusations were the result of “a nasty smear campaign and a sham investigation by a powerful lobby in Annapolis.”

In a January interview with The Baltimore Sun, Jalisi said he would be willing to pay Agandi himself if that were allowed. Instead, he said he’s likely to spend more defending himself from the lawsuit.

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Agandi had sought a judgment of $2,670 in back pay on top of $27,379 in punitive damages, according to the lawsuit. He also was seeking $7,860 in treble damages, citing Jalisi’s violation of state law, which allows a plaintiff owed back pay to request the court increase the payable amount to up to three times the wage.

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