Courtroom revelations yesterday, as former Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa pleaded guilty to tax evasion, raised an uncomfortable question for Mayor Catherine Pugh today:
How could she have embraced him last January as her choice to led the BPD given a 2015 letter from the Internal Revenue Service alerting his employer, the Baltimore Police Department, to problems with his withholding tax allowances?
That so-called “lock-in letter,” Pugh said at her weekly press availability, was “not in the files that we saw – absolutely not in the files that we saw.”
Pressed how the IRS’s concerns had not surfaced in her office’s vetting of the then-deputy commissioner, she responded with some heat.
“I’m not responsible for what people do about their personal lives,” she said.
“Some of the allegations, some of the admissions that were made,” she added, “were as surprising to me as to other people in our community.”
Initial Refusal to Fire Him
Back in May, Pugh at first minimized the importance of the federal indictment against her top cop.
“As Commissioner De Sousa has explained, he made a mistake in not filing his taxes for the years in question,” the mayor said in a statement released from City Hall at the time.
“He is working to resolve this matter,” she said, expressing “full confidence” in him.
A “stipulation of fact” presented yesterday in federal court showed that De Sousa had started cheating on his federal and state income taxes in 1999 by claiming false allowances on his W-4 forms.
After De Sousa resigned, Pugh continued to defend her choice of him in remarks that mirrored today’s.
“I watched his work. I’m pleased with where we are in terms of reducing violence,” she then said. “At the same time, I don’t control people’s personal lives.”
At today’s press availability, Pugh seemed to find some humor in the situation.
“Do you have any idea how many ‘lock-in letters’ have been received by the Baltimore Police Department,” WBAL reporter Jayne Miller laughingly asked Pugh.
“No, I don’t,” Pugh responded, also chuckling. “I wonder!”