xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Baltimore IG faults State’s Attorney Mosby for far-flung travels without approval, finds no misspent tax dollars

After five days in Kenya meeting African prosecutors and seeing the wildlife, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby flew to Dulles International Airport where a detachment of city police officers picked her up and drove her to the horse and wine country outside Washington, D.C.

Mosby spent two days attending a retreat for prosecutors at the exclusive Salamander Resort & Spa, “the epitome of luxury,” according to the website, before Baltimore police officers returned to pick her up and drive her home.

Advertisement

Baltimore’s top prosecutor wasn’t attending on the taxpayer’s dime, but she still should have sought approval from the city’s spending panel, Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming concluded.

Cumming released the results Tuesday of her months-long investigation into Mosby’s travel, personal businesses and gifts, finding the state’s attorney was gone — physically absent from Baltimore — for 144 workdays in 2018 and 2019.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Mosby disclosed 85 of these days on her state ethics forms and Cumming found the top prosecutor was gone an additional 59 days, she wrote in her report.

These trips, some to exotic destinations including Nairobi, Kenya; Edinburgh, Scotland; Berlin, Germany; and Lisbon, Portugal, were paid for by nonprofit criminal-justice organizations such as the Vera Institute of Justice and Fair and Just Prosecution. Still, 15 of the trips were not submitted to the Board of Estimates for approval as they should have been, the inspector general found.

Mosby disclosed these trips on her state ethics filings — all but the prosecutors’ retreat at Salamander Resort & Spa.

Cumming stopped short of concluding whether Mosby met the requirements of state ethics laws.

“It is not within the purview of [Office of the Inspector General] to make a determination as to whether SA Mosby fully complied with the state public ethics law, including the state’s disclosure requirements,” she wrote. “The OIG will defer any such finding to the Maryland State Ethics Commission.”

Jennifer Allgair, executive director of the ethics commission, declined to comment.

David Shuster, an attorney for Mosby, issued a statement Tuesday.

“As we fully expected, the OIG found no secret ‘under the table gifts’; no ‘double dipping’; and no financial improprieties whatsoever,” he wrote.

Mosby did not take questions Tuesday, but her office issued a statement, too.

“The State’s Attorney is glad that this investigation has concluded and our office is moving forward with the important work of the people’s business,” wrote Zy Richardson, her spokeswoman.

Cumming’s report concludes a tense, seven-month investigation into Mosby’s travel and business dealings — an investigation Mosby herself requested.

The state’s attorney asked for the probe last summer amid questions about her trips abroad and revelations that she formed travel and hospitality companies while in office. She did not initially mention these companies in her financial disclosures.

Mosby said she felt confident that she did nothing wrong and the inspector general’s findings would settle any misconceptions about her conduct.

“The reality is that I have always been transparent and fully disclosed all information in accordance with my ethical obligation,” Mosby wrote to the inspector general.

She flew around the world as a featured speaker and panelist at criminal justice events. The Vera Institute paid about $800 for her hotel room for two nights in August 2019 at the Salamander Resort & Spa; she personally paid $300 in other expenses, according to the report. The nonprofit was holding a health and wellness retreat there for elected prosecutors from around the country.

Mosby’s domestic travels ranged from Memphis, Tennessee, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, New York, Houston, Tucson, Arizona, and San Jose, California. Her travel over the two years cost about $27,500. Nearly $24,000 of that money came from sponsoring organizations, $1,700 from the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, and $1,800 from Mosby, the inspector general found.

Cumming concluded that Mosby broke the city’s administrative procedures for out-of-town travel. The inspector general wrote that travel costing more than $800 requires approval from the city spending panel — regardless of the source of the money. The Board of Estimates also must approve any travel that would keep Mosby away for five workdays, the inspector general wrote.

“Mosby did not request BOE approval for any of her 24 trips,” Cumming wrote.

She noted, however, only 15 of the 24 trips exceeded $800 or the limits for time away, and therefore should have been approved.

Joanne Antoine, executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause Maryland, said it’s important for elected officials such as Mosby to request approval and disclose their trips, regardless of who’s paying their hotel bill.

“While it does appear many of the trips were paid using her personal/non-govt funds and that she has been disclosing travel, not seeking approval in these cases may unfortunately lead city residents to question the purpose of her trips,” she wrote in an email.

Mosby’s critics have questioned why Baltimore’s top prosecutor — one making nearly $240,000 a year — would start a travel and hospitality business. She registered three companies with state officials: Mahogany Elite Consulting to offer legal and consulting services; Mahogany Elite Travel to offer travel and hospitality services; and Mahogany Elite Enterprises LLC to operate as a holding company.

The state’s attorney said she started the business 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.”

Mosby has said her travel business is in its early stages, with no clients or sales. Her spokeswoman said the companies exist in name only.

Cumming found Mosby sought to deduct $5,000 in losses associated with the businesses in her 2019 federal tax returns. Mosby turned over records showing she spent $7,600 on her companies for plane tickets, rental cars and meals at out-of-town restaurants.

Among the purchases she sought to deduct were flights for her and her husband, City Council President Nick Mosby, from San Jose, California, to Tampa, Florida in July 2019. The couple flew to Florida after a meeting of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys in San Jose.

The inspector general’s report includes as exhibits dozens of letters between Mosby’s attorneys and Cumming, a body of correspondence that reveals tense exchanges as the investigation went on.

Last month, an attorney for Mosby wrote Cumming, urging the inspector general to finish her investigation. Mosby’s attorney noted the office had willingly turned over travel receipts, expense reports, calendars and more than 4,000 emails. Mosby provided her tax returns and a year’s worth of bank and credit card statements, too. Investigators downloaded the text messages and call logs from her cell phone.

Advertisement

Mosby was preparing more records when when Cumming issued her report Tuesday. The state’s attorney was surprised by the report, wrote Shuster, her attorney.

Advertisement

“Although the concerns raised by the OIG are minor and appear to be the result of basic misunderstandings of certain matters, Ms. Mosby would have welcomed an opportunity to discuss this and any other perceived concerns referenced in the report.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement