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Ethics committee report accuses Baltimore County Del. Jalisi of 'abusive workplace behavior'

The Maryland General Assembly's ethics committee is recommending a public reprimand of Del. Jay Jalisi of Baltimore County for “an ongoing pattern of bullying and abusive workplace behavior.”

A 16-page report was delivered Monday night to lawmakers, outlining the investigation from the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics.

“There has been an ongoing pattern of bullying and abusive workplace behavior on the part of Delegate Jalisi toward staff — particularly female staff members,” the report states.

Jalisi, 53, a Reisterstown Democrat, was not present at the House of Delegates session Monday evening. But he released a statement that described the accusations against him as a “political hit job.”

“Sadly, over the past few months I have been the target of a nasty smear campaign and a sham investigation by a powerful lobby in Annapolis,” Jalisi said.

A reprimand is a less serious form of discipline than the censure that the House of Delegates imposed on Democratic Del. Mary Ann Lisanti of Harford County earlier this year for her alleged use of a racial slur.

Del. Nic Kipke, an Anne Arundel Republican who sits on the ethics committee, said “the report speaks for itself.” Kipke, who is minority leader in the House, said lawmakers would vote on the resolution of reprimand Wednesday.

The report’s findings include that Jalisi forced his staff to work overtime, but then would not sign off on their time cards. It also says he refused to allow an employee to leave the office on a snow day, even though state employees were granted liberal leave.

The report cited one of Jalisi’s staff who described a work environment that was “toxic” and said Jalisi had “no patience” and “no self-control.”

Earlier this year, according to the report, Jalisi called a staffer “stupid” and “incompetent” and made the staffer stand in the delegate’s office and repeat: “I am incompetent. I am incompetent.”

Also, Jalisi did not participate in an anger management program that House Speaker Michael Busch requested that he complete, according to the ethics report. As a result, Jalisi was not permitted to have staff paid by the General Assembly.

The ethics committee met five times this year in closed session about Jalisi’s conduct after Busch reported a “pattern of bullying and abusive workplace behavior” on Feb. 5.

“Delegate Jalisi was given numerous opportunities to change his behavior before the speaker referred this matter to the ethics committee,” the report states.

Jalisi’s abusive behavior took place over a period of years, dating to 2015, according to the committee’s report.

Jalisi repeatedly refused to comply with efforts to improve his treatment of his staff, the report says.

In 2016, Del. Jalisi “verbally abused, bullied and was belligerent with staff for the ethics committee,” and, in 2018, Jalisi failed to attend meetings with the speaker and the majority whip about his conduct, according to the report.

“Delegate Jalisi could have avoided this public shaming if he had simply accepted and tried to learn from the advice and guidance so many have offered him,” the report states. “Delegate Jalisi’s continued verbally and emotionally abusive conduct has simply become unmanageable and is unlikely to change, thereby requiring the Ethics Committee to recommend more severe action to address his behavior and protect the General Assembly’s staff.”

This isn’t the first time Jalisi’s actions have been scrutinized.

In 2014, the year he was first elected as a delegate, Jalisi paid a $2,500 fine after acknowledging that he wrote checks from his campaign account, which was a violation of campaign finance law. Typically, checks can only be written by a campaign treasurer or chairman, so long as the campaign chairman is not also the candidate — which was the case for Jalisi’s campaign. Jalisi wrote 28 checks from his campaign account from February through April of that year.

Then in 2015, a Baltimore County judge issued a protective order barring Jalisi from contact with his then-teenage daughter. Jalisi’s daughter wrote in an application for the order that her father slapped her during an argument. She also accused him of “verbal harassment, intimidation, persistently following to places or demanding whereabouts, slandering.”

Baltimore County police were called to the family’s Lutherville home after the argument. No criminal charges were filed.

Following that incident and the court order, Busch removed Jalisi from the Judiciary Committee — which reviews domestic violence laws, among other issues — and placed him on the Environment and Transportation Committee.

If the House of Delegates reprimands Jalisi, it will be the second time that delegates discipline one of their own this session.

On Feb. 28, the House voted to censure Lisanti, who was alleged to have described part of Prince George’s County as a “n----- district” during an after-hours gathering at an Annapolis cigar bar earlier in the year.

Short of expulsion, a censure is the General Assembly's strongest form of discipline. Many politicians from both parties, as well as groups in Prince George’s and Harford counties, have called on Lisanti to resign or be expelled. Lisanti has said she won’t resign and would instead work to rebuild trust. She has kept a low profile since the censure.

pwood@baltsun.com

luke.broadwater@baltsun.com

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