With no questions asked, City Council greenlights Ethics Board nominee
Venable partner John McCauley gets the nod to join the board that oversees ethical behavior. The final appointee – a top aide to indicted former state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby.
Above: Attorney John McCauley will fill one of two vacant seats on the Baltimore Ethics Board. (venable.com)
“Tough crowd,” quipped attorney John A. McCauley after Baltimore Council members raised not a single question or observation today before approving his nomination to the Board of Ethics.
The three-minute-long hearing, delayed after McCauley had failed to turn up at an earlier hearing, meant that his nomination was unanimously confirmed tonight by the full Council.
McCauley will fill one of two vacancies on the five-member panel, which is charged with enforcing the city’s ethics code for appointed and elected officials.
Nominated for the final vacancy is Noelle W. Newman, who served as deputy to former Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby in her final year in office.
The present three-member board has come under criticism for “blacking out” the names of donors to a legal defense fund set up for Mosby and her husband, City Council President Nick Mosby.
After Marilyn Mosby was indicted on federal criminal charges last year, the ethics board ruled that Nick Mosby had violated ethics rules by accepting cash from “controlled donors” – persons doing business with the city – through the defense fund. (As a state employee, Marilyn Mosby was not beholden to the city rules.)
After losing his appeal, Nick Mosby was ordered by a Circuit Court judge to turn over the list of donors to the ethics board, which proceeded to release the list with all 130 donor names redacted.
The six Councilmen attending today’s Rules and Legislative Oversight hearing – all of them appointed by Nick Mosby (see below) – did not ask McCauley about the ethics board redactions, which have been faulted in editorials and by op-ed writers as a misreading of the state’s Public Information Act.
• Baltimore Ethics Board: Don’t make a mockery of Maryland’s Public Information Act (3/29/23)
A longtime partner at Venable LLC who represents pharmaceutical and other companies in product liability cases, McCauley today pledged to uphold a “rigorous ethics law and rigorous ethics enforcement.”
“You can’t have good government without good ethics. It just doesn’t work,” he told the Council committee today.
He said he has “a history of some public service” as a volunteer lawyer for the Charles Village Community Benefits District and a board member of the Baltimore Urban Debate League. He is the son of the late John Andrew McCauley, onetime chief of the Baltimore Housing Authority.
Online campaign records show that McCauley has contributed $7,000 to Mayor Brandon Scott, who nominated him to the ethics board, and an additional $6,000 to Jim Shea, the former chairman of Venable who ran for Maryland governor in 2018 with Scott, then a city councilman, as lieutenant governor.
The Shea-Scott team won few votes in the 2018 Democratic primary. But two years later, Scott was elected Baltimore’s mayor, and he made Shea city solicitor.
Last January, Shea handed over the law office to two young lawyers he had recruited from Venable – now acting city solicitor Ebony Thompson and deputy solicitor Stephen Salsbury.
Newman was formally nominated today by Mayor Scott as a fifth member of the ethics board.
Since leaving the state’s attorney’s office in January when Ivan Bates took office, Newman has worked as a litigator at PK Law, a Towson-based firm.
Newman has been a loyal supporter of both Mosbys, according to Elections Board records.
For example, she gave $425 to Nick Mosby during his short-lived campaign for mayor in 2016, and has given more since.
While a member of the state’s attorney’s office, she donated more than $4,000 to Marilyn Mosby’s campaign committee under her name and under Noelle Winder.
Nick Mosby tonight assigned her nomination to the Rules and Legislative Oversight Committee for a future hearing.
• The Council members approving McCauley were Issac “Yitzy” Schleifer (chair), Kristerfer Burnett, Mark Conway, Eric Costello, Odette Ramos and James Torrence.