By Rick Ritter

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The former mayor of Baltimore City had a farewell party in November that cost more than $50,000.

How the party was paid for is legal but is raising some eyebrows.

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Former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was dressed to the nines in one of Harbor East’s finest spots for a farewell party.

A party that was paid for by campaign funds, more than a year after Rawlings-Blake announced she wouldn’t seek another term.

“It’s not what you typically see even when a candidate is trying to spend down their account,” Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director at Common Cause Maryland says.

Reports obtained by WJZ that were submitted to the State Board of Elections broke down the cost of the bash at Bar Vasquez.

Starting with a $20,000 catering deposit on November 11 from the Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for Baltimore funds. On November 19, a catering balance of $31,000 to Bar Vasquez. Also $1,100 for professional photography, $750 for DJ services and another $750 for entertainment. All totaling close to $55,000.

“These funds are hard fought, these are $20 donations from Baltimore residents and in some cases, larger gifts from other elected officials,” Bevan-Dangel says.

According to reports, the menu that night featured filet, empanadas and gourmet pastries, along with mini bottles of sparking wine for guests to take home.

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The event raises serious questions about Maryland law and how an official not running for office, can spend campaign funds.

Maryland law allows candidates to spend down campaign funds, but some feel this is extreme.

“We’ve never seen that level of spending basically on a giant farewell party,” Bevan-Dangel says.

She says the Maryland law is vague but those no longer running for office are expected to transfer funds to another candidate or to a non-profit.

“A party like this is really pushing the perimeter of our settled law around the issue,” she says.

Councilman Brandon Scott, who attended the party says,”how the event was paid for is between Stephanie and her campaign.”

Questions many now want the Maryland State Board of Elections to hone in on. They acknowledged they’ve received a complaint but couldn’t comment any further.

WJZ tried reaching out to the former mayor but didn’t hear back. Rawlings-Blake left office on December 6 and opened up her own consulting firm.

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Rick Ritter