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Politics

Mosby legal defense fund founded by Robyn Murphy, friend to Baltimore power couple

A legal defense fund Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby has attempted to distance himself from was established by Robyn Murphy, a local consultant who is friends with Mosby and his wife, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

Murphy, the owner of a media consulting company that does communications work for the Mosbys, is listed as the trustee on a document filed with the IRS in July establishing The Mosby 2021 Trust, a tax-exempt political organization that has been raising money for the legal expenses of the Baltimore power couple.

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Reached Friday, Murphy said she is no longer the trustee. “I just helped set it up,” she said.

The council president’s affiliation with the fund has run afoul of Baltimore’s ethics code, according to a ruling released Thursday by the city’s Board of Ethics accusing the council president of multiple violations of city law related to the fund’s acceptance of donations from two city contractors.

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Baltimore’s code of ethics bars city officials from soliciting and accepting money, directly or indirectly, from “controlled donors,” a category that includes city contractors and many others who do business with the city.

Nick Mosby asserted to the Board of Ethics last year that he was “unaware of any solicitation from any person to contribute to the Mosby Trust.”

Murphy has been a visible friend and supporter to the Mosbys, appearing in photos with them in social and professional settings. Nick Mosby chatted with Murphy and her husband, former Baltimore Raven Jason Murphy, in a Baltimore Sun photo at the 2021 Preakness Stakes, and she appeared in another photo posted by Marilyn Mosby last year with Nick Mosby and a group of their supporters.

Murphy also spoke out last April at a news conference condemning an investigation conducted by city Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming into Marilyn Mosby’s travel.

Murphy said Friday she informed the Board of Ethics she was no longer the defense fund’s trustee and pointed to a passage in a report the board released Thursday that notes her statement was received on Dec. 9. An attorney for the trust also informed the board on that date that Murphy was no longer the trustee.

By that point, the fund had raised $7,760 and transferred $2,587 into a business checking account associated with the trust, according to the ethics board report.

When the trust was formed, it was represented by Kelley C. Miller, an attorney with a D.C. based firm, Reed Smith, according to the IRS filing. A. Scott Bolden, Marilyn Mosby’s criminal defense attorney, also works for Reed Smith.

Murphy declined to say who the new trustee is, but said she contacted the person in response to media requests. Murphy said the person did not want to speak. She also declined to say when she stepped down as trustee.

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The Board of Ethics has accused Nick Mosby of violating provisions in the city’s ethics law that bar city officials from soliciting and accepting donations from controlled donors. City officeholders cannot solicit such donations directly or indirectly through another person or entity. Likewise, they cannot accept donations themselves or have someone else accept them on their behalf from controlled donors.

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In the case of Nick Mosby, who presides over City Council as well as the city’s Board of Estimates, controlled donors are considered anyone who seeks to do business with City Council, the council president’s office, the Board of Estimates or any city governmental or quasi-governmental entity with which the council president is affiliated. Also included are subcontractors doing business with or seeking to do business with the above groups, and those who engage in activities regulated or controlled by those groups.

According to the Board of Ethics, the 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.

The fund 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.

Neither donor was named in the report.

The fund was established for the legal defense of the Mosbys as they faced a federal criminal investigation last year into their financial dealings. 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.

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Nick Mosby issued a statement late Thursday denying he violated the city’s ethics code.

“I am completely perplexed by the board’s findings,” he wrote. “The board is fully aware that I have never asked, requested, or solicited any person to donate to the ‘legal defense fund.’ The board further knows that I never assisted in the creation of the legal defense fund or the entity that controlled the funds that were donated.”


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