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Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott names former running mate Shea as city solicitor

Jim Shea speaks in 2018 at a gubernatorial forum sponsored by the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter, Maryland Matters and Maryland League of Conservation Voters Ed Fund at the Peabody Heights Brewery in Baltimore.
Jim Shea speaks in 2018 at a gubernatorial forum sponsored by the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter, Maryland Matters and Maryland League of Conservation Voters Ed Fund at the Peabody Heights Brewery in Baltimore. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott named his picks for city solicitor and a newly created chief equity officer position Tuesday, adding to the new mayor’s growing cabinet.

As solicitor, Scott announced he would nominate Jim Shea, chairman emeritus of the Venable law firm and a 2018 gubernatorial candidate with whom Scott ran for lieutenant governor.

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Dana Moore, Baltimore’s acting solicitor, would become the city’s first chief equity officer, Scott also announced.

Baltimore’s solicitor holds a critical position in the city’s hierarchy. The solicitor defends Baltimore in court and brings lawsuits on behalf of its residents. During Moore’s tenure, the city has settled more than a dozen lawsuits related to the Baltimore Police Department’s corrupt Gun Trace Task Force at a cost of more than $13 million but avoiding further legal proceedings. Several lawsuits against the city over the task force remain unresolved.

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The city’s top lawyer also sits on the Board of Estimates, one of three votes controlled by the mayor on the board, which approves all of the city’s contractual spending.

Scott selected Moore for a new cabinet-level position that will direct the existing Office of Equity and Civil Rights, which is responsible for providing oversight to local government and upholding local and federal civil rights and wage laws.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott on Tuesday announced the appointments of Jim Shea (left) to city solicitor and Dana Moore (right) as the city's first chief equity officer.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott on Tuesday announced the appointments of Jim Shea (left) to city solicitor and Dana Moore (right) as the city's first chief equity officer. (Courtesy of Baltimore City)

Shea and Moore are nominees. Both appointments need the confirmation of the Baltimore City Council.

Shea became known statewide during his run for the Democratic nomination for governor, which quickly fizzled amid a field of better-known candidates. He’s best known within the legal community after leading Maryland’s largest law firm for decades.

Shea is also a former chair of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, which oversees Maryland’s public colleges and universities, and he previously chaired the Empower Baltimore Management Corp., which provided job training and money to small businesses in East and West Baltimore.

“Jim brings unmatched legal and civic experience to City Hall, and he is committed to charting a new course for Baltimore,” Scott said a news release. “His dedication to good lawyering, equity and accountability will make him an effective city solicitor and critical part of my team as we work to build a better city.”

Shea said he’ll act as Scott’s legal adviser, but he also expects to serve as a counselor on broader policy issues the city faces.

“It’s a chance for me to provide service to the public,” he said. “I have developed some level of experience and expertise over the years. I’m in my lane when I’m providing legal services and more general counseling to the mayor and his teams.”

Shea is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Virginia law school. Born in Baltimore, he went to Baltimore County schools before attending the elite Andover Academy in Massachusetts, where he was classmates with Jeb Bush, later Republican governor of Florida, and Andre Davis, later city solicitor for Baltimore in the Pugh and Young administrations.

The solicitor’s salary is set by the city charter at $188,000. Shea said he expects to begin work Jan. 11.

Roger Hartley, dean of the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs, said a solicitor is always one of the most important picks a mayor will make. But in Baltimore, a city that has struggled with police reform, the city’s top lawyer is particularly significant, he said. Hartley cited a 2018 clash between Davis and Baltimore’s Civilian Review Board over confidentiality agreements. The board reviews police brutality and abuse allegations.

“Shea is stepping in at an important time with demands on equity and inclusion and all the legal matters that impact the city,” Hartley said.

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Shea lives in Owings Mills. Baltimore’s solicitor is required to live in the city, and Shea plans to move, Scott’s spokeswoman, Stefanie Mavronis, said Tuesday.

Moore, who was Baltimore’s first female solicitor, would move to the city’s Office of Equity and Civil Rights. In his news release, Scott said Moore would work closely with the city’s new administrator to ensure other areas of city government operate through an equitable framework. Scott has nominated Christopher J. Shorter, formerly an assistant city manager in Austin, Texas, for that role at a proposed salary of $250,000.

Scott pledged to govern with equity during his inaugural speech earlier this month. He praised Moore’s leadership experience and history of cooperative work.

“[The job] will require the kind of leadership, hard work, expertise and collaboration that have been hallmarks of Solicitor Moore’s career,” he said.

Moore will make at least $190,000 in her new position, Mavronis said.

Moore assumed the solicitor position in March following the resignation of Davis. Davis, previously a senior judge in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was coaxed into the job by then-Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh. He left about 10 months after her resignation in 2019.

Before becoming acting solicitor, Moore was deputy solicitor for the law department. She previously practiced law at the same firm Shea led: Venable; as well as Whiteford, Taylor & Preston and Tydings & Rosenberg. She also founded her own practice focused on small, minority and woman-owned businesses, according to the news release.

Scott, who took office in early December, has been gradually rolling out picks for his top staff, including his chief of staff and communications team. He has yet to make nominations to lead the Department of Public Works, the Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services, all of which are operating under acting directors.

The City Council will formally receive Scott’s nominations at its next meeting on Jan. 11 and will schedule meetings to consider them upon their receipt, said Yvonne Wenger, spokesperson for Council President Nick Mosby.

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