Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby did not donate any of the 41 gifts she received in 2018 and 2019 to her office’s charity auction, as her spokesperson claimed, and did not submit at least 15 out-of-town trips to the Board of Estimates for approval, as required by city policy, the inspector general reported today.
The findings were part of a wide-ranging investigation of Mosby’s activities, which the state’s attorney herself requested after this website published a story about her extensive travels, including her formation of LLCs that were not initially disclosed on her state ethics form.
“The Baltimore Brew published an article on my travels and financial disclosure. . . that presents a misleading picture of my finances and travel to readers,” she wrote to Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming on July 20.
Defending her travel as never hidden from the public and beneficial to her work as a progressive prosecutor, she asked the IG to investigate her travel and gifts, “confident that I have always abided by the ethical rules and regulations.”
“The people of Baltimore,” she concluded, “have endured far too many corruption scandals and need to know what is and is not illegal.”
If Mosby’s hope was for exoneration, it was not to be found in today’s report.
Mosby statement tonight: “After seven months of an exhaustive investigation which State’s Attorney Mosby asked for, there has been no finding of wrongdoing, unethical behavior and, most importantly, no abuse of taxpayer dollars. The State’s Attorney is glad that this investigation has concluded and our office is moving forward with the important work of the people.” – Spokesperson Zy Richardson.
While Baltimore’s top prosecutor did not outright misspend any government funds, she did break administrative procedures and stretched ethical boundaries, according to the detailed report:
• She was not fully transparent about the extent of her out-of-town travels, including to a luxury spa in Virginia.
• She was physically absent from her job for 144 workdays in 2018 and 2019.
• She used her Executive Protection Unit, provided by the Baltimore Police Department, to pick her up at airports and take her to other locations.
• She said she wouldn’t operate her private LLCs while state’s attorney, but her financial records show that she used them to write off federal tax expenses.
Mosby said the three businesses she established in 2019 – Mahogany Elite Enterprises, Mahogany Elite Travel and Mahogany Elite Consulting – were designed “to help underserved Black families who don’t usually have the opportunity to travel outside of urban cites, so they can vacation at various destinations throughout the world at affordable rates.”
“I ask that you verify,” she instructed the IG, “that I have not taken on a single client for these companies, nor have I taken in any money. Any insinuation to the contrary is false, misleading and unethical.”
Mosby did not use the companies as a source of income, according to the report, but rather to claim business expenses against the companies’ zero revenues.
In one case, she used the business to book airfare for herself and her husband, Nick Mosby, from San Jose, Calif., where she attended a meeting of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, to Tampa. Fla.
Prior to that trip, the Mosbys had flown from Baltimore to Minneapolis to attend a conference sponsored by the United Steelworkers Union, then jetted on to San Jose.
(At the time, Nick Mosby was a state delegate; now he is City Council president, the second highest elected position at City Hall.)
The IG found that the steelworkers union paid for the couple’s air fare to California, the state’s attorney’s office paid for her hotel stay in San Jose, and Mahogany Elite paid for Nick and Marilyn Mosby’s return air fare.
In another instance, the IG found that Mosby did not report a three-day paid retreat at a Five-Star wellness spa in Virginia sponsored by the Vera Institute of Justice.
The trip took place immediately after she had returned from the Great Rift Valley Lodge in Africa, where she had exchanged insights into government graft with Kenya’s public prosecutor between wildlife outings.
The report continues:
SA Mosby had flown from Hamad International Airport in Qatar to Washington, D.C., and proceeded directly to the Salamander Resort. SA Mosby’s work calendar indicated that the Executive Protection Unit – SA Mosby’s personal protective detail provided by the Baltimore Police Department – traveled to Dulles to pick her up and take her to the Salamander Resort in Virginia. Two days later, EPU returned to pick her up from the resort and bring her back to Baltimore.
Determining whether Maryland state rules were broken by these and other activities was outside the purview of her report, Cumming said. “The OIG will defer any such finding to the Maryland State Ethics Commission.”
But Cumming did offer this timeline:
In her 2019 state ethics filing, Mosby did not disclose the three companies she had established eight months earlier, as required by state law. (Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh pleaded guilty to failing to disclose her involvement in Healthy Holly LLC as a state senator.)
Mosby said the omission was a mistake by her former chief of staff. However, the former COS told Cumming that she had no knowledge of the companies and “never heard SA Mosby mention them.”
Five months after her filing, Mosby “was alerted that the media [namely, The Brew] had reviewed her 2019 disclosure form” and “realized that her businesses had been left off.”
As a result, Mosby said she instructed another SAO employee to submit an amended disclosure that included Mahogany Elite, which was submitted to the ethics commission on July 2, 2020.”
The Brew published its story about the companies on July 16.
Violations of Travel Policy
The IG said that many of Mosby’s out-of-town trips failed to get the approval of the Board of Estimates.
Such approval is needed when travel takes place outside of the continental U.S., exceeds $800, extends into the weekend or lasts more than five workdays.
In at least 15 instances in 2018 and 2019, Mosby did not get BOE approval. But in three cases prior to 2018, Mosby did seek the board’s permission, according to the report:
Each of the three requests indicated a city-issued credit card assigned to the SAO community outreach supervisor was used to pre-pay travel costs. The OIG found at least one trip in 2019 cost the city more than $800 and was paid for using the credit card assigned to the community outreach supervisor; however, the trip was not submitted to the BOE.
In The Brew’s original story, Mosby’s spokesperson, Zy Richardson, was asked to account for the 41 gifts that the prosecutor reported receiving from organizations and individuals in 2018 and 2019.
They included skincare products, bath bombs, coffee mugs, essential oils, mascaras and lip glosses, bracelet sets, gift bags, an Ankara clutch, and marijuana products from an Oregon cannabis company.
Gifts Weren’t Donated
In the vast majority of cases, Mosby reported the gifts’ value as “unknown” or left the entry blank on her ethics forms.
Richardson said Mosby had donated most of the gifts to the annual SAO Winter Solstice party “where we raise money for victims of crime.”
Today’s report disputed that characterization, saying no overlap could be found between the gifts reported on Mosby’s ethics forms and the gifts that were donated at the SAO auctions.
Mosby’s private counsel, Andrew Jay Graham of Kramon & Graham, disputed this finding in an exhibit presented to the IG.
The lawyer said that Mosby had donated tickets to a UniverSoul Circus as well as a clutch with a Omoyeni bracelet set at Crime Control & Prevention giveaways in 2018.
The marijuana products from the cannabis company and various skin care items were among the gifts “slated” to be donated to the SAO winter solstice.
What’s more, he said, Mosby had over-reported gifts on her ethics forms and that one of the items so reported was actually a birthday present from a childhood friend of her spouse.
In a letter dated January 26 to Cumming, Graham wrote that “your office’s investigation to demonstrate the inaccuracy of reports by certain media outlets” had taken an inordinate amount of the prosecutor’s time.
Mosby and SAO staff had “provided an enormous volume of documents.” Now they “very much want to maintain their focus on essential law enforcement work for city residents,” he said.