The committee that organized a day of festivities to celebrate Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s inauguration in 2016 hasn’t filed the financial disclosures the IRS requires of nonprofits.
Jon Laria, an attorney and one of Pugh’s inaugural committee directors, said he realized the forms hadn’t been filed after The Baltimore Sun asked this week to review copies of the documents, which are supposed to be public. The filings would provide a look at how much money the committee raised and how it was spent.
“It was inadvertent,” he said. “The first filing wasn’t really due until almost a year after the inaugural. In the press of other things it simply slipped through the cracks.”
Laria’s acknowledgement that the committee failed to file the IRS forms — known as 990s — comes as Pugh faces intense scrutiny over her financial affairs. The Sun revealed she had struck a children’s book deal worth $500,000 with the University of Maryland Medical System when she sat on its board. She failed to properly disclose the deal in ethics forms she was required to file in her former role as a state senator.
Pugh did not respond to questions about the inaugural committee. She has defended the book deal, but acknowledged Thursday that she made an error with the Senate ethics forms and has resigned from the medical system board.
Laria said Thursday that he was working with an accountant to ensure that the inauguration committee’s forms were filed by next week.
While Pugh was involved in some of the planning for the inaugural events, Laria said the responsibility for filing the IRS forms rested with him and the committee’s two other directors. The IRS can issue a penalty of $20 per day for late filings.
“The mayor has no responsibility for the filing of tax forms. None,” he said. “The board of directors is responsible for filing the forms, and they should have been filed. It’s a bit embarrassing.”
In 2015, the General Assembly passed a law requiring governors and lieutenant governors to disclose fundraising by their inauguration committees. Gov. Larry Hogan raised $1.6 million for his inauguration this year. That law does not apply to committees backing people elected to other offices, such as mayor.
The IRS Form 990 requires disclosure of how much money Pugh’s inaugural committee raised and how it was spent, but not who contributed the money.
Other public records offer a glimpse at some contributors to Pugh’s committee. Verizon disclosed that it gave $20,000. The Johns Hopkins Health System Corp., an umbrella organization for the medical facilities, gave $6,250. Developer Scott Plank’s family foundation gave $10,000.
State records show that the Catherine Pugh Inaugural Committee was established in September 2016. The IRS approved its nonprofit status the following year.
The other two directors are listed as Kent Krabbe, who was hired to a $107,000 a year job at the city transportation department in 2017, and Chuck Tildon III, who recently left a job as an executive at the United Way of Central Maryland.
Laria declined to say how much money the committee raised ahead of the forms being filed with the IRS. “I’m completely confident they are all ordinary inaugural expenses,” he said. The directors weren’t paid, and the committee had only a volunteer staff, Laria said.
The mayor’s inauguration on Dec. 6, 2016, began with a formal ceremony and then lunch at the War Memorial, across from City Hall. In the afternoon there were four community receptions in neighborhoods around the city. The day ended with a $100-a-head dinner at the Hilton Baltimore.
Money left in the committee’s accounts after the inauguration was given to charitable causes, Laria said — including to aid a family forced from their home by a fire.