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Ethics Board finds City Council President Nick Mosby violated law by accepting donations for personal legal defense

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Posted at 12:38 PM, May 12, 2022

BALTIMORE — Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby allegedly violated public ethics laws by soliciting and accepting gifts related to a fundraising campaign last year.

The Baltimore City Board of Ethics released a full report on their findings Thursday.

They voted unanimously that Mosby violated ethics laws when the money raised during the campaign went towards he and his wife, Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby's, private legal expenses.

The Mosby 2021 Trust as it was called, was initially created by an unidentified person allegedly known to Mosby, under the guise of a political organization that filed for tax-exempt status with the IRS.

Around July 26 of last year is when the campaign officially launched online.

It later evolved into actual websites under the moniker, Mosby Defense Fund Page, which tells of the couple's fight to defend themselves in an ongoing federal investigation.

Along with links to contribute to their legal defense fund, the site also could redirect donors to the Nick and Marilyn Mosby's respective campaign sites.

The website accepted most forms of payment, including prepaid gift cards, and never verified the identity of anyone who donated.

Later the ethics board apparently received multiple complaints about the fundraising efforts.

When asked by the board, Mosby reportedly denied having any involvement in the trust and claimed to have no knowledge of solicitation efforts even though he was listed as a beneficiary.

"I categorically deny that I have committed any breach of the City’s Ethics Code and I am completely perplexed by the Board’s findings," Mosby responded. "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. In fact, I proactively disclaimed any interest in that trust fund, in advance of their findings, and I instructed the trust to return the limited amount of funds received on my behalf."

Mosby is said to have declined the board's request to hand over documentation about the trust, citing attorney client privilege.

Attorneys handling the Mosby 2021 Trust told the board that no contributions had even been made.

The board found that claim to be false, finding the trust had in fact raised more than $14,000 from 135 donations, two of which were made by the Board of Ethics' director under an alias during the investigation. More than $2,500 of those funds ended up being transferred into the Mosby Trust bank account.

Other donors reportedly had business before the City's Board of Estimates which is chaired by Mosby. Some were awarded lucrative contracts with the city.

Attorneys for the trust tried saying they sought advice from state ethics heads to determine whether what they were doing fell within legal parameters.

But by the time the trust attorneys reached out, they'd already been soliciting donations for more than four months. And it turns out the trust attorneys were later notified that raising money for legal defense purposes was restricted by law.

In January 2022, Nick Mosby's campaign committee filed an annual financial disclosure statement that reported a $12,500 payment to the trust's attorneys.

However the next month when Nick Mosby filed his own financial disclosures, he made no mention of any donations received by the trust.

As previously reported by WMAR-2 News, Mosby and his wife did report spending tens-of-thousands in campaign funds unrelated to the trust, on lawyers defending them in the federal criminal investigation.

MORE: Finance reports show Marilyn & Nick Mosby spent $50k in campaign funds to defend against federal probe

So far, Nick Mosby has not been charged with any crime. News broke in March of last year that he and Marilyn Mosby were under federal investigation. She has since been indicted on perjury charges and making false statements on mortgage applications, related to the purchase of two vacation homes in Florida. Her trial begins in September.

For now, the Ethics Board is ordering Mosby to amend his disclosure form and remove himself from any current or future interest from the trust within 30 days.

Additionally the board is demanding that the trust return all controlled donations that were made, and to immediately cease and desist from all fundraising activities on Mosby's behalf.

"Knowing that no money has ever been paid to me or my attorneys from the legal defense fund, the Board erroneously found that I had received some benefit from the trust that managed the donations," Mosby said. "Further, not a single witness was ever interviewed by the Board’s staff, and there was little or no follow-up concerning the documents that were obtained. Neither I, nor my attorney, had access to the private conferences with the Board and the law firm it paid to pursue. The Board was investigator, prosecutor, judge, and jury -- that is not a fair or impartial process."

The full investigative report and orders can be read below.