The job-training nonprofit connected to a federal investigation of former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has reported to Maryland regulators that three prominent city residents — a state senator, a former Colts running back and a well-known attorney — have served on its board of directors, which Pugh chaired for a decade.
But all three have told The Baltimore Sun they are not — and never have been — board members for the Maryland Center for Adult Training.
“I have never been a board member,” said Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, a Baltimore Democrat.
“I had nothing to do with them at all,” said Lydell Mitchell, a Colts running back from 1972 to 1978.
“I’m very surprised,” said attorney Robert Dashiell, whose name was misspelled on MCAT’s state reports. “That shows you how close we were.”
The nonprofit, known as MCAT, reported the names to the Maryland Higher Education Commission as “current members of the Board of Directors” who “govern” the group, according to two reports covering 2015-2017. The commission has regulated the tax-exempt organization as a professional career school that has spent private and government grants to train “disadvantaged persons transitioning from unemployment” as certified nursing assistants.
MCAT did not list any board members in the 2017-18 report submitted to the commission, which requires the information and can impose penalties and fines if groups violate regulations by submitting false or misleading information, a commission spokeswoman said.
In addition, MCAT reported Mitchell as a board member to the Internal Revenue Service on annual tax forms.
Both the state and federal reports are signed by MCAT officials “under penalty of perjury.”
Marc Owens, former director of the IRS tax-exempt organization division, said such irregularities typically indicate “much more serious problems.”
“It’s definitely an issue and would cause any regulator to dig more deeply,” Owens said.
IRS and FBI agents conducted searches at various locations last month, including City Hall, Pugh’s homes, MCAT’s office and the apartment of Gary Brown Jr., a city and MCAT official. The sweep was part of investigations of Pugh’s business dealings, including $500,000 in sales of her Healthy Holly children’s books to the University of Maryland Medical System.
A federal subpoena delivered at City Hall specifically requested “any and all records” from the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development relating to MCAT, which used to be called Maryland Center for Arts and Technology, from Jan. 1, 2011, to the present. The subpoena, released by the city, requests “any communications, correspondence and emails” between Pugh, MCAT’s executive director Roslyn Wedington and Brown. It seeks to obtain financial documents related to MCAT, including contracts, government grants and bookkeeping records.
After Pugh became mayor in December 2016, the city awarded MCAT nearly $29,000 — mostly from a federal Department of Labor program and local casino money — to provide nursing training through last June. From 2015 through 2018, the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulations provided MCAT with $177,075 through a U.S. Labor Department program.
State labor regulators were unaware until notified by The Sun that MCAT’s certification from Maryland’s nursing board had lapsed a year ago. State labor officials removed the group from its list of eligible training organizations.
In addition, The Sun reported that Wedington was convicted in 2004 of stealing $852,000 from a dentist while working as his bookkeeper for years. She violated her probation in that case for not paying $200,000 in restitution, and currently faces at least $14,000 in open judgments against her from several creditors filed in Baltimore County District Court.
Court records show Wedington has worked at MCAT since at least 2008, the year when her wages at the nonprofit were garnished for various debts. The MCAT records submitted to the state, which contain Wedington’s signature, list her as executive director since 2015. She could not be reached for comment.
Pugh has sat on MCAT’s board since 2001. The state records and tax filings show she served as chairwoman from 2003 to 2017, a period when she was a City Council member, a state delegate, a state senator and mayor.
As a senator, Pugh did report her MCAT board seat to the state ethics commission as required. But she had not reported her UMMS board seat or the book sales to UMMS until she amended seven years of forms on the same day The Sun asked her about the omission.
As mayor, Pugh’s two disclosure forms covering 2016 and 2017 do not disclose her board seats with MCAT and UMMS on mandatory ethics forms. Pugh also did not abstain from voting on city contracts awarded to MCAT and UMMS, as required by ethics rules. The city’s Board of Ethics began investigating last month.
Pugh and her attorney, Steven Silverman, could not be reached for comment.
Three other people listed as board members on MCAT’s website — Brown, Poetri Deal and Afra Vance-White — had city government jobs in the Pugh administration until now-Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young fired them last month after Pugh went on medical leave April 1. Brown also has been listed as a board member on MCAT’s tax records filed with the IRS and in its reports to the state. But the names of Deal and Vance-White appeared only on a now-defunct page on the group’s website.
Deal told The Sun she was unaware she was listed as a MCAT board member. Brown and Vance-White could not be reached for comment.
Two of the three MCAT reports to the Maryland Higher Education Commission obtained by The Sun through a Public Information Act request list Pugh as chairperson and Nathan-Pulliam, Mitchell and Dashiell as board members. Brown is listed as a board member only on the 2015-2016 report. The most recent report shows no board.
MCAT’s annual federal tax forms submitted to the Internal Revenue Service provide different information.
In the most recent tax filing for the year ending June 30, 2017, Mitchell and Brown are listed as board members along with Keith Timmons, Pugh’s campaign treasurer, and Betty Clark, a Democratic Party official in Baltimore. Timmons and Clark did not return calls for comment.
Contrary to the state records listing Wedington as executive director for the past three years, Brown is listed as executive director in MCAT’s most recent federal tax form. But the tax form does not include Brown’s signature.
The organization did not submit any tax forms from 2013 through 2016, the IRS confirmed.
Mitchell, one of Pugh’s biggest campaign donors, also appears as a board member on MCAT’s 2009 and 2010 tax forms.
Mitchell, Dashiell and Nathan-Pulliam all said their only tie to MCAT dates to a decade ago when their mutual friend Dorothy Brunson was involved with the group. Brunson, a prominent businesswoman whom Pugh called a “mentor,” died in 2011.
“I knew Dorothy Brunson, but I had never been a board member,” Mitchell said. “I can’t say I knew anything about this group until I saw this mess on the news.”
Nathan-Pulliam said she once gave a speech to an MCAT graduating class at Brunson’s invitation.
And Dashiell said he volunteered free legal advice to MCAT as a favor to Brunson. But he said he was never a board member or a “legal liasion,” as the report states.
“I don’t even know what that is,” he said.