City Councilman Ryan Dorsey has proposed legislation that would require Baltimore’s elected leaders to disclose their private business clients and customers.
Dorsey, a Democrat, said the bill "closes the loophole” in city financial disclosure law that allowed then-Mayor Catherine Pugh to sell her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books without disclosing that her company’s customers included firms with business before the city, which Dorsey said represented a conflict of interest.
Pugh had disclosed that she owned the company, Healthy Holly LLC, but not that she was selling tens of thousands of books for hundreds of thousands of dollars to entities that operate within the city and do business with it, including the University of Maryland Medical System, Kaiser Permanente and Associated Black Charities. Pugh resigned, as did a slate of UMMS officials, after The Baltimore Sun disclosed the deals earlier this year.
Under Dorsey’s legislation, elected officials — including the mayor, the City Council president, the comptroller and council members — would be required to disclose the clients of any company in which they own a 30% stake.
“If we are really going to talk about transparency and ethics, then we need to be looking at everything.”— Bernard C. "Jack" Young, Democratic mayor of Baltimore
"You have to disclose who you are making money off of — basically who your clients are,” Dorsey said.
Officials already have to disclose companies they own, and any gifts worth $25 or more from entities with business with the city.
The book deals by Pugh, a Democrat, are the subject of multiple state and federal investigations. Steve Silverman, Pugh’s attorney, declined to comment on the proposed legislation.
Based on the most recently filed city financial disclosure forms, the bill could affect Democratic Comptroller Joan Pratt, who owns an accounting firm, and Democratic Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, who owns software companies called Raffle Ready and Shliffness. Raffle Ready works with nonprofits seeking to raise money online; Shliffness is a marketing software firm.
[ Related: Dorsey to introduce three city bills related to ethical governing, oversight ]
Pratt used to own a consignment shop with Pugh, as well, but no longer does. Pratt declined to comment Monday.
Schleifer said Monday evening he had not yet had a chance to review the bill.
Maryland Policy & Politics
Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who does not own a business, said he supports Dorsey’s bill.
“It’s a good thing,” Young said. “If we are really going to talk about transparency and ethics, then we need to be looking at everything.”
[ Related: FBI raids Mayor Catherine Pugh's City Hall office, her two houses ]
Young said Dorsey is “methodical" about reforms.
“Once he gets on something, he just don’t stop. He just keeps going. And I think it’s good for transparency," Young said.
Dorsey has introduced other transparency legislation in the wake of the Healthy Holly scandal. The council passed a bill Monday providing greater protections for whistleblowers.
Democratic City Council President Brandon Scott does not own any businesses, nor do most other council members, according to interviews and financial disclosure forms.
Multiple council members have disclosed that their spouses or other family members own businesses, but that would not be covered by Dorsey’s legislation.