BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Baltimore City Board of Ethics on Thursday said City Council President Nick Mosby violated the city’s ethics law when he accepted donations to cover his legal expenses and those of his wife, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

All four members of the board found the donations violated a section of the ethics law prohibiting “a public servant from soliciting—or facilitating the solicitation of—a gift from a controlled donor,” according to a newly published report.

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The Mosby Trust, a group soliciting legal defense funds for what it calls an “unjust, politically-motivated federal criminal tax investigation,” is made up people known to the council president, though he declined to provide their names.

Mosby “indicated in writing to the Board, on two occasions, that the Mosby Trust’s trustees and its attorney were known to him,” the board said.

Representatives for Mosby argued the council president had not violated the law because he did not solicit the donations himself, but the board disagreed.

“There is no evidence known to the Board, and none in the record, that at any time did [Mosby] take any steps to distance himself from the Mosby Trust and its fundraising activities,” the board said. “Nor is there evidence that [Mosby] ever requested the Mosby Trust to cease fundraising on his behalf, let alone to remove his name, picture, and credentials from the Mosby Defense Fund Page.”

In a statement, Mosby denied any breach of the ethics code and said he’s “completely perplexed” by the board’s findings.

“The Board is fully aware that I have never asked, requested, or solicited any person to donate to the ‘legal defense fund.’ The Board further knows that I never assisted in the creation of the legal defense fund or the entity that controlled the funds that were donated. In fact, I proactively disclaimed any interest in that trust fund, in advance of their findings, and I instructed the trust to return the limited amount of funds received on my behalf.

“Knowing that no money has ever been paid to me or my attorneys from the legal defense fund, the Board erroneously found that I had received some benefit from the trust that managed the donations. Further, not a single witness was ever interviewed by the Board’s staff, and there was little or no follow-up concerning the documents that were obtained. Neither I, nor my attorney, had access to the private conferences with the Board and the law firm it paid to pursue. The Board was investigator, prosecutor, judge, and jury — that is not a fair or impartial process.”

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The board said Mosby must disclose his “beneficiary interest” in the trust and amend his campaign financial forms within 30 days, and he is ordered to no longer accept payments from the trust.

Mosby must also ask the group to stop collecting donations on his behalf within 30 days and return any funds to donors.

In a statement, Mayor Brandon Scott said the report marks “another sad day for Baltimore and another unwanted distraction as we work to move our city forward.”

“These violations reflect poorly on our city as a whole and are counterproductive. I vow to continue to work to rebuild the public trust between our residents and the City government,” he said.

In March 2021, federal prosecutors announced an investigation of the couple’s finances, asking for records including tax returns from 2014 through 2020, cancelled checks, receipts and credit card and loan statements.

An attorney representing the couple called the charges “laughable” and suggested they were being brought for political reasons

“What it ultimately gets at is these are two high profile African American politicians. They are progressive change makers,” A. Scott Bolden said.

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Marilyn Mosby is set to stand trial in September, where she faces accusations that she lied about enduring financial hardships related to COVID-19 to withdraw money without penalty from her retirement account and that she falsified information on loan applications for two properties in Florida.

CBS Baltimore Staff