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by Fern Shen11:16 amMar 31, 20230

Scott’s nominee for Ethics Board misses committee hearing

If his appearance is rescheduled and nomination approved, John McCauley will join a panel under fire for redacting the names of donors who gave to Nick and Marilyn Mosby’s legal defense fund

Above: Attorney John McCauley, Brandon Scott’s choice to fill a vacancy on the Baltimore City Board of Ethics. (venable.com)

A routine City Council committee hearing, held last night to move mayoral appointments forward, came off according to script except for one glaring absence.

The Rules and Oversight Committee approved six people to open seats on the Commission for Women and the Baltimore Hispanic Commission after hearing from the nominees about why they want to serve.

But Mayor Brandon Scott’s nominee for the Board of Ethics – poised to fill one of two vacancies – was a surprise no-show.

Instead of an appearance by John A. McCauley, a partner at the blue-chip law firm Venable, a staffer from the mayor’s office addressed the committee.

“John McCauley will not be able to attend today,” she said. “We’ll have to be rescheduling his attendance.”

Committee Chairman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer appeared taken aback by the disclosure.

“Doesn’t his nomination need to be heard before the next Council meeting?”

“We have him on the list here for tonight,” Schleifer continued. “I mean if he wants the nomination, he’s got to show up for the hearing.”

The staffer promised to work on a new date for McCauley to appear, saying the administration’s “deadline” is April 17 when McCauley’s nomination would presumably be up for final approval by the full Council.

“We apologize, but he has informed us ahead of time that he for personal reasons is not able to make it,” the staffer said.

Messages left for McCauley and for Scott’s communications director have not been returned.

The Brew also asked  J. Christoph Amberger, director of the board, if McCauley’s absence indicated a problem with his nomination.

We have not yet received a reply.

Longtime Vacancies

If confirmed by the City Council, McCauley would join a body that is chaired by former Liquor Board chairman Stephan W. Fogleman and includes attorney Melodie Hengerer and real estate broker Arnold Sampson.

That means the board, which has been at the center of a controversy involving City Council President Nick Mosby, only has enough members to constitute a quorum.

One seat has been open for more than a year, and the other since January. Meanwhile, the board has been tasked with critical decisions and lately drawing fire for them.

Last year, the board ruled that Nick Mosby violated city ethics rules by accepting cash from “controlled donors” – persons doing business with the city – through a legal defense fund set up for himself and his wife, Marilyn Mosby, former Baltimore state’s attorney now under a federal indictment.

A Baltimore Circuit Court judge concurred, last month ordering Mosby to turn over a list of all donors to the fund.

But when the board finally released the list, the names of the more than 130 donors were blacked out.

Baltimore Ethics Board: Don’t make a mockery of Maryland’s Public Information Act (3/29/23)

Amberger said the redactions were proper under an exception in the Maryland Public Information Act barring disclosure of the “finances” of individuals.

The board’s action has been criticized in editorials and by op-ed writers, who said its explanation does not hold up to legal scrutiny.

“Guard against improper influence”

The Mosby defense fund was set up in 2021 after the couple became targets of a federal criminal investigation.

Marilyn Mosby is now scheduled to stand trial next November on two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements on a loan application.

Nick Mosby was not indicted, but was cited in the indictment as aiding his wife in falsifying the origins of a $5,000 gift she used to buy a condominium near Sarasota, Florida.

The ethics board is charged with overseeing and enforcing Baltimore’s Public Ethics Law, which is intended “to guard against improper influence or even the appearance of improper influence, and to ensure public trust in the government.”

Each board member must be “of known personal integrity” and possess “recognized knowledge and interest in government and civics” – and none may be a lobbyist, government official or candidate for elected office.

Of the five members, one is nominated by the City Council president, one by the comptroller and three by the mayor.

The members serve staggered, five-year terms and annually elect their own chairman.

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