A former aide to Baltimore's mayor has been charged with making illegal contributions to the mayor's campaign, prompting officials on Monday to cancel his planned swearing-in ceremony for a vacant seat in the Maryland House of Delegates.
Gary Brown Jr., a Democrat who was a legislative aide to new Mayor Catherine Pugh when she was still a state senator, has been charged with six counts of election law violations, State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt announced. Brown had recently been nominated to the House vacancy.
Prosecutors allege that Brown, who worked on Pugh's campaign, deposited $18,000 in cash between Jan. 13, 2016 and April 9, 2016 into accounts of his mother, stepfather and brother last year and then contributed it in their names to Pugh's campaign. The maximum allowed by an individual is $6,000.
"Election laws are in place to maintain the integrity of the electoral process and foster transparency in the regulation of campaign contributions," Davitt said in a statement. "Illegal straw contributions in names other than one's own to evade such laws cannot be tolerated."
Brown, who was indicted Friday by the Baltimore City grand jury, told The Baltimore Sun he hadn't yet seen the charges and declined to comment. Online court records didn't list an attorney for him.
"I am saddened by the allegations, and just learned about the charges along with the public," Pugh, a Democrat who began a four-year term last month, said in a statement. "Still, Mr. Brown is presumed innocent while the investigations continue. It would be inappropriate to provide any further comments."
Brown had been scheduled to be sworn in Tuesday to Baltimore's 40th District seat, which opened up when former Del. Barbara Robinson was appointed to fill Pugh's state Senate seat.
Brown was nominated by the 40th District's delegation to the Baltimore City Democratic Central Committee, and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan forwarded the nomination to House Speaker Michael Busch's office. Hogan has since rescinded the appointment, his spokesman Doug Mayer said.
Alexandra Hughes, the speaker's chief of staff, announced the cancellation of the ceremony shortly after the indictment was announced Monday.
Coming days before the start of Maryland's 90-day legislative session, the indictment is the latest legal and ethical concern in the House of Delegates to become public.
Last week, federal prosecutors announced that two elected officials, one now out of office, are targets of a public corruption probe and expected to be charged in a bribery scheme that already has resulted in charges against two Prince George's County liquor board officials and two business owners. The two officials were unnamed. Prosecutors allege that bribes involved passage of a "Sunday Sales Bill," which established up to 100 Sunday liquor sales permits in the county.
Separately, a legislative ethics panel has been reviewing a lawmaker who helped design the state's medical marijuana law and who was listed as a consultant for a company in line to be licensed to grow and process the drug. Del. Dan Morhaim, a Democrat, has said he followed ethics rules and regulations and that he was cooperating with the General Assembly's Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics. On Monday, the speaker announced that he was reassigning Morhaim, an emergency room physician, from the House Health and Government Operations Committee to the House Judiciary Committee. Morhaim had served on the health panel since 2003.