Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby is challenging a Board of Ethics order that called on him to cease fundraising for a legal-defense fund and turn over a list of donors one month after he said publicly he would comply with the order.
Mosby, representing himself, filed a motion Friday in Circuit Court for Baltimore City requesting a judicial review of the Board of Ethics’ decision. Last month, the board said Mosby violated the city’s ethics ordinance by indirectly soliciting for a legal-defense fund that took donations from at least two city contractors.
The fund, which opened for donations in mid-2021, was established for the legal defense of him and his wife, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, as they faced a federal criminal investigation last year into their financial dealings. While Nick Mosby has not been charged with anything, Marilyn Mosby was charged this year with perjury and making false statements related to the purchase of two Florida houses.
In its order, the Board of Ethics called on the council president to accept no payments from the fund and to ask the fund to cease fundraising on his behalf. Nick Mosby also was ordered to request that a list of all donors and donations to the fund be provided to the ethics board. The deadline to comply with the order was Saturday.
Last month, Nick Mosby denied violating the ethics code but said he intended to comply with the order from the ethics board.
“If you read through the 17 pages clearly, I had nothing to do with it, and at this point it’s just time to move on,” he said in May. “I’m going to comply with whatever stipulations that they’re asking me.”
However, the council president also argued there was no money for him to return to donors.
“There is no money to pay back,” he said at the time. “There was never any money that was passed along.”
Baltimore’s ethics ordinance allows the subjects of investigations to seek a judicial review if they are “aggrieved” by a decision of the ethics board. Mosby’s two-page filing, made public Monday, argues he was “aggrieved” by the outcome but says little else.
Speaking Monday evening to The Baltimore Sun, the council president argued he has complied with the order.
“The order was a list of things, some of which I’ve already done or I had to appeal within that 30-day period,” he said. “So I complied with that.”
Nick Mosby said he has concerns with the process the Board of Ethics used to investigate him. He said the board acted as judge, jury, prosecutor and investigator.
“Seemed really political, but you know, we’re here, and I just want an objective body to look at the process,” the council president said.
The council president said the board’s ruling opened up “a huge can of worms.”
“It just seems like this broad stroke approach that organizations that have your name on them that you’re supposed to file them on your disclosure,” he said. “When other folks are board members and organizational leaders of institutions that collect funds as well that, you know, they don’t go on that disclosure.”
Stephan Fogleman, chairman of the Board of Ethics, said the board received notice Monday of the council president’s legal filing.
“The ethics board will be participating in the proceedings, and we stand by our decision and administrative order,” he said.
Baltimore’s ethics ordinance allows the board to fine violators $1,000 per day if they fail to comply with an order from the board. Fogleman said the board will discuss whether to stay its order as Mosby’s appeal is considered. Mosby’s filing did not request a stay.
According to the Board of Ethics, the Mosby’s legal defense fund received $5,000, its largest individual contribution, in August from the “resident agent” for a contractor that is a city-certified minority- or woman-owned business. The business was a subcontractor on a deal considered by the city’s spending board in 2020, the board reported.
It also received a $100 donation from the executive director of a nonprofit organization that was awarded a multi-thousand dollar grant by the city in March.
The ruling did not name the donors or further identify their connections to the city, but both are considered “controlled donors” under the city’s ethics law, which bars elected officials from receiving contributions from such donors, solicited or otherwise.
The board also concluded that Nick Mosby violated a provision of the law barring him from soliciting donations, directly or indirectly, from controlled donors.
The list of donors Mosby was ordered to provide would have been the first public accounting of donations to the legal defense fund.
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Prominent supporters and community leaders have encouraged contributions, posting on Facebook and appearing at news conferences, but Marilyn Mosby reported no gifts to the fund during her most recent ethics disclosure statement filed in April. Nick Mosby’s last ethics disclosure, filed in January, does not list the legal defense fund as a business affiliation or detail any gifts.
According to the Board of Ethics ruling last month, the fund received $14,352 in donations as of March 15 from 135 individual donors.
Days after the Board of Ethics announced its findings related to Nick Mosby and the legal defense fund, six of the City Council’s 15 members signed a letter echoing the demands of the board’s order. The letter was signed by Kristerfer Burnett, Zeke Cohen, Ryan Dorsey, Phylicia Porter, Odette Ramos and James Torrence.
“We write to express to you our dismay at the ethics board’s findings in their investigation of the Mosby Trust, of which you are a beneficiary, and your financial disclosure,” the letter stated. “We commend the board’s thorough report and diligent explanation of the law, facts and precedent, making unmistakably clear the violations of the city’s ethics laws.”
“The ethics board’s administrative order provides a clear and straightforward path for you to correct your multiple ethics violations,” council’s letter stated. “For the sake of the trust and morale of both the public and the City Council, we ask that you immediately and fully comply with the order.”
Cohen said Monday it was “concerning” that the council president “opted for a different route.” Council members are exploring what the judicial review process entails, he said.
“We need to make sure that it moves expeditiously,” Cohen said. “I think for my colleagues and I, our concern is really about the prestige of the body, and just wanting to make sure that we as a council are comporting ourselves as as we should.”