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City Lawyer: Mayor Didn’t Violate Ethics Law

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Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

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BALTIMORE (AP) — Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake did not violate city ethics laws by voting on contracts involving Johns Hopkins University, despite her husband’s employment with a Hopkins subsidiary, Baltimore’s top lawyer reported Thursday.

Rawlings-Blake’s husband, Kent Blake, started a job in December as an intake coordinator with Johns Hopkins Community Physicians.

The city’s ethics code generally prohibits officials from voting on contracts in which relatives have a financial interest.

Since her husband began working for JHCP, Rawlings-Blake has voted to approve 22 contracts involving the university, valued at more than $2.3 million. But Johns Hopkins is a complex institution, and her husband’s employer is not part of the university. Instead, it’s part of the Johns Hopkins Health System, which includes Johns
Hopkins Hospital.

City Solicitor George Nilson wrote in a memo to the mayor’s office Thursday that Rawlings-Blake should recuse herself from votes directly involving Johns Hopkins Community Physicians. But she can vote on matters involving other Johns Hopkins entities unless her husband has “ownership or like financial interest” in JHCP or any other Hopkins entity, Nilson wrote.

The memo, obtained by The Associated Press, noted that another city employee raised the same question in 2008 with the executive director of the city’s ethics board. Like Rawlings-Blake, that employee’s spouse worked for JHCP, but ethics director Avery Aisenstark concluded that the employee should recuse himself only from transactions involving JHCP. Nilson wrote that he came to the same conclusion as the ethics board director, who is not appointed
by the mayor.

Most of the contracts approved by the mayor were continuations of existing agreements. Many involved funding for HIV treatment and outreach efforts. Rawlings-Blake has said they had nothing to do with her husband’s job.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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