A Baltimore County judge on Tuesday imposed a $1,000 fine against a former aide to a state delegate for making illegal robocalls against fellow Republican Del. Kathy Szeliga, who is a member of the state’s GOP leadership.
District Court Judge Philip N. Tirabassi ordered a sentence of probation before judgment against Tyler Walch, who was chief of staff for Del. Richard Impallaria, who represents Baltimore and Harford counties. In addition to the fine and three years of unsupervised probation, Walch must complete 100 hours of community service, the judge said.
After, Impallaria said he had no comment on the trial’s outcome. Walch did not respond to a request for comment.
Prosecutors alleged that Walch was responsible for the publication and distribution of a “robocall” last year to approximately 9,000 residents of the two counties.
Impallaria and Szeliga were running in the same three-seat primary election for the District 7 seats in the House of Delegates.
The robocall was disseminated June 25, the day before the primary. It failed to identify Walch or the Friends of Rick Impallaria campaign as responsible for the call, prosecutors say.
“This message not only failed to provide the information required by Maryland law, it attempted to deliberately deceive voters by providing misleading information,” State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt said in a statement. “Maryland voters are entitled to know what person or group is responsible for such material, particularly when it is published and distributed one day before the primary election. The credibility of the messenger is an essential factor in evaluating the value of the message.”
The call concerned Szeliga’s 2016 vote in favor of a bill that prohibited employers from discriminating against transgender people at work. The call misleadingly purported to be from an advocate of transgender rights, according to prosecutors.
“Hi, this is Ali, a donor to the National Center for Transgender Equality, calling to ask you to support Delegate Kathy Szeliga in tomorrow’s Republican primary election,” the call stated.
“Kathy Szeliga is a true friend of the transgender community, having voted for House Bill 1003, making it illegal to discriminate against transgendered persons in the workplace. With the support of lawmakers willing to work across the aisle, like Kathy Szeliga, transgenders will soon be able to use the bathrooms of their choice. Again, this is Ali calling to ask you to support Kathy Szeliga, a friend of the transgender community. Thank you.”
Szeliga received the most votes in the primary election, followed by Impallaria and fellow Republican Lauren Arikan. All three won their general election races and serve together in the House of Delegates.
She pointed out that the deceptive robocall failed to result in her defeat.
“Election-eve dirty tricks are horrendous and it’s got to stop,” Szeliga said. “Their desired outcome was not achieved. It didn’t work.”