Marvin James, who was named Mayor Brandon Scott’s interim chief of staff on May 4, did not disclose the $19,000 he earned last year managing three House of Delegates campaigns while employed full-time by the city.
Neither did he list the nearly $6,000 he got from Scott’s own political committee. (James ran Scott’s 2020 mayoral campaign and afterwards was given a non-civil service job in the mayor’s office.)
Nor did James report a $2,178 check issued last July by Ivan Bates’ campaign committee. (In 2018, James ran Bates’ failed bid for state’s attorney.)
In all, James picked up $27,114 from five political committees in 2022, according to State Board of Elections records, but reported no earned income on the financial disclosure form that he filed with the Baltimore Board of Ethics.
Under Section 7-27 of the city ethics code, senior staff like James are required to disclose “any income or salary” earned by themselves or by family members.
James, however, checked “not applicable” on the Earned Income schedule for year 2022, swearing “under penalties of perjury” that “the contents of this statement and of all accompanying schedules are true to the best of my knowledge, information and belief.”
Reached this morning, James said he was at a meeting, but could answer texted questions. Asked why he didn’t disclose his campaign income on his ethics form, he replied, “I would have to check in with ethics and the administration. Nevertheless, that income is properly registered with State Board [of Elections]. I can follow-up [what] ethics provided me on said guidance.”
A person who falsely makes an oath or affirmation required by local, state or federal law can be subject to imprisonment of up to 10 years under Section 9-101 of the Maryland Criminal Code.
But the law is rarely enforced, especially in Baltimore where the ethics board has no direct prosecutorial powers.
Last May, the board did order City Council President Nick Mosby to reveal his interest in a legal defense fund set up for him and his wife, former State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, to help defray legal costs stemming from the federal criminal investigation that led to her indictment.
Nick Mosby appealed the board’s order. In February, he was ordered to disclose The Mosby 2021 Trust on his 2021 financial disclosure form by Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill.
Campaign and Court Records
Baltimore government allows employees to exercise their constitutional rights and participate in electoral activities.
But it prohibits them from “participation in a candidate’s campaign while on the job during working hours” (AM 200-8) and further bars outside employment that violates city rules or policies, including the ethics code, or “intentionally uses the prestige of office or position for private gain” (AM 200-2 and AM 200-8).
Employees may take a leave of absence or take comp time to work for a political campaign.
But James did not go on leave – nor did he take more than minimal comp time, according to salary records – while managing the campaigns of three House of Delegates candidates last year.
The candidates, all Democrats, paid James a total of $19,000. One dropped out of the race, while the other two now serve in the legislature.
Here is what campaign reports filed at the State Board of Elections show:
• Caylin A. Young paid $3,000 to James last July after was elected as one of three candidates to win the Democratic primary as delegates representing northeast Baltimore’s 45th District. He went on to win the general election in November. Young has since become an embattled figure. In March, he was charged with misdemeanor assault arising from an altercation at an LGBTQ+ public forum. The charge was dropped on May 1 after the Office of State’s Attorney Bates told a judge that a video of the incident did not support the allegations. Young remains embroiled in a bitter tug of war with Stephanie M. Smith, head of the Baltimore City House delegation – and his relationship with Chezia Cager, the recently fired chief of staff for Mayor Scott, has added to the political headwinds as he serves (while not in Annapolis) as deputy director at the Baltimore Office of Equity and Civil Rights.
• Calvin A. Young III, Caylin’s twin brother, paid James $10,000 last spring before he dropped out of the race for Baltimore County’s District 44B and took a partnership position at a private equity fund. James also ran Young’s long-shot bid for mayor in 2016. Supporters of Calvin Young, his campaign committee, face $1,080 in fines for failure to file timely financial statements.
5/17/23 UPDATE: These fines have been paid. In a statement to The Brew, Young said, “Marvin’s work on my campaign was only conducted in the evenings and weekends, when he and I were both available after work to meet and set up the campaign website, flyers, fundraise, knock doors, etc.”
• Jeffrie E. Long Jr. a pastor and freshman delegate representing Calvert County’s District 27B, also hired James as campaign manager. His committee owed James $6,000 in “salaries and other compensation” last August, which was subsequently paid, according to campaign records. On April 4, Long was charged with home invasion and first-degree felony assault after he allegedly broke into his aunt’s house in Huntington and threatened her with a pipe. Long’s lawyers say he was nowhere near the house and is entirely innocent. He is scheduled to appear in Calvert County District Court on May 31.
In addition, James received:
• $5,936 from People for Brandon M. Scott, the campaign committee that James previously managed. The committee paid James $2,438 in April 2022 for “consultant fees – campaign workers” and $3,498 last November for “field expenses,” even though Scott himself was not running for office.
• $2,178 from Friends of Ivan Bates on the day that Bates beat Marilyn Mosby and won the Democratic Party primary for state’s attorney. A complaint filed by Jim Cabezas, retired chief investigator for the State Prosecutor’s Office, accused Bates of hiring James during the 2022 campaign. “Declining to report those expenses to avoid publicizing [James’ connection] to the campaign is unlawful,” Cabezas wrote. A Bates spokesman denied the accusation. The $2,178 check was listed by the Bates campaign as “other expenditures” with no further explanation.
During his nine years in elective office as a city councilman and as city council president, Scott promoted himself as a champion of honest and transparent government.
During the 2020 mayoral race, James helped Scott assemble this message into a “pillar” of his progressive agenda as he sought to distinguish himself from incumbent Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and other contenders in the all-important Democratic Party primary.
Making city government worthy of residents’ trust “is our most basic and fundamental responsibility,” Scott said in Restoring Trust in City Government: A New Way Forward for Transparency and Accountability, an eight-page document issued by his campaign.
“In recent years, two mayors have resigned following shocking revelations of their criminal conduct while in public office. They disgraced themselves, the Office of Mayor and our entire city,” Scott wrote, mindful that one of those mayors, Sheila Dixon, was running a vigorous comeback campaign in 2020.
“We should expect public officials to meet the highest ethical standards and set an example for honesty and integrity,” Scott continued, pledging to re-train City Hall employees so that they are more responsive to citizen requests and more aware of potential conflicts of interest.
“Having an honest, transparent government characterized by integrity is not only the right thing to do, it is also the most effective way to run a city,” he concluded.
Scott went on to win the Democratic primary in a close match with Dixon – with Marvin James rallying Scott’s supporters when the early results seemed to favor Dixon.
• To reach a reporter: email@example.com