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Mosby's attorneys dispute watch dog report that found potential violations

Posted at 6:27 PM, Feb 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-12 20:09:30-05

BALTIMORE — Lawyers for Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby are firing back at Inspector General, Isabel Mercedes Cumming, following the long awaited release of a 79 page investigative report detailing Mosby's travel and personal businesses.

They say the Inspector General abruptly released the report, without giving them an opportunity to review or respond to any allegations.

One portion of the report heavily disputed by Mosby's attorneys, David Shuster and Andrew Jay Graham, is whether or not the City's Board of Estimates needed to approve her travel.

In the report, Cumming found that Mosby had left Baltimore to attend 24 out-of-town events throughout 2018 and 2019, causing her to be “physically absent” from the city for 85 days.

RELATED: OIG Report: Most of Mosby's out of town travel was not approved by BOE as required

Based off Cumming's interpretation, Mosby was required to seek the board's approval for at least 15 of the trips.

She cites the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office Travel Policy which states in part,

"Travel that costs more than $800, as well as any travel outside of the continental United States regardless of source of funds or cost of trip, must be approved by the BOE. Additionally, BOE approval is required if the official’s absence exceeds five workdays or involves one or both weekend days."

Shuster and Graham argue that the provision applies only if Mosby was requesting the city to pay or reimburse her for the trips.

"Your interpretation of the applicable rules is incorrect," the attorneys wrote to Cumming. "Mrs. Mosby was not required to submit a Travel Request form in advance unless she sought to have the trip funded by the City," they concluded.

Cumming did acknowledge in her report that outside sponsoring organizations, not taxpayers, paid $23,693 in travel expenses for 19 out of 23 trips. The City State's Attorney's Office paid $3,322.65 in full or partial costs for six others.

The Inspector General couldn't independently verify expenses related to a 24th trip, sponsored by the Harvard Women’s Law Association, for which Mosby reported $500.52 in gifted travel expenses.

However, Cumming does seem to counter the viewpoint of Mosby's lawyers.

Cumming wrote that her office found at least one trip Mosby took in 2019, that cost the city more than $800 without the board's approval.

The attorneys also took issue with the Inspector General's claims that Mosby never donated gifts she received on the trips, as promised.

Cumming wrote that Mosby reported receiving 41 gifts between 2018 and 2019.

Mosby allegedly only valued five of the 33 gifts received in 2018 totaling $1,111.02.

Cumming referenced emails from Mosby's office which stated, "the majority of gifts the State’s Attorney has received and reported are donated to the BCSAO auction during our Winter Solstice celebration, where we raise money for victims of crime.”

In response, the Inspector General requested proof showing the gifts had been auctioned.

Cumming writes that Mosby’s layers responded claiming two of the gifts, a CBD set and candle holder, had actually been returned at the advice of ethics officials.

Ultimately after obtaining a list of all items reportedly donated for the 2018 and 2019 Winter Solstice auctions, the Inspector General found that Mosby was not a listed donor and that nothing on the list matched any gifts Mosby received.

"This is a gross misstatement. The majority of the gifts in question are gifts that Mrs. Mosby reported on ethics disclosure forms that were not required to be disclosed," Mosby's attorneys wrote. "They included such items as mugs, plaques, tee shirts, and personal gifts received from colleagues and friends that she was under no obligation to report. Furthermore, Mrs. Mosby was never required to donate these items to victims of crime and needy families; however, that is what she did and does."

Mosby's lawyers claimed several of the gifts received in 2019 were to be auctioned at the 2020 Winter Solstice, but it was canceled due to the pandemic.

The third and final point Mosby's lawyers seemed unhappy with, was Cumming's analysis of Mosby's personal business dealings.

Cumming revealed in May 2019, Mosby registered three business under her name; Mahogany Elite Enterprises, LLC; Mahogany Elite Travel; and Mahogany Elite Consulting.

The Inspector General found Mosby did not initially report the businesses on her 2019 State financial disclosure form.

Mosby told Cumming that a former chief of staff had filed the forms in January 2020, after she reviewed them.

During an interview the former employee apparently told Cumming that she never knew about the businesses, and never heard Mosby mention anything about them.

It wasn't until about five months later, when Mosby said she heard the media was reviewing her disclosure forms.

Mosby told Cumming that prompted her to take another look at the forms, at which point she claims to have realized the businesses had been left off.

Although the Inspector General found no evidence of revenue or income related to the companies, the report notes that Mosby’s 2019 personal tax return confirmed that the business incurred $5,000 in expenses.

"Again, your report is misleading," Mosby's attorneys wrote in response. "The companies that our client formed in 2019 are not operational. That is what she said. As she explained, the companies are brand new and are not yet conducting business. There were, however, expenses in connection with establishing the companies and with other activities before they could become operational. The deduction was proper and based on professional tax advice," Mosby's lawyers concluded.

The report itself was requested by Mosby and her team.

In her written conclusion, Cumming deferred her findings to the Maryland State Ethics Commission saying,"It is not within the purview of the OIG to make a determination as to whether SA Mosby fully complied with the State Public Ethics Law, including the State’s disclosure requirements."

Read the full Inspector General report and the response from Mosby's lawyers below.