Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) on Monday canceled the planned swearing-in of a Baltimore Democrat who has been charged with violating campaign finance laws by making illegal donations to Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh.
Gary Brown Jr. has been indicted on six counts of violating election laws, the Maryland State Prosecutor’s Office announced Monday morning. He was scheduled to be sworn in to the House of Delegates on Tuesday to fill a vacancy triggered by Pugh’s election. The legislature’s 90-day session begins Wednesday.
Authorities say Brown, a top aide to Pugh when she was in the state Senate and during her 2016 mayoral campaign, illegally bypassed the $6,000 campaign donation limit by depositing $18,000 into the bank accounts of his mother, stepfather and brother, then donating the money in their names to Pugh’s mayoral bid.
Brown did not reply to a text and an e-mail seeking comment.
“I am saddened by the allegations, and just learned about the charges along with the public,” Pugh said in a statement. “Still, Mr. Brown is presumed innocent while the investigations continue.”
She declined to comment further, including on what she plans to do with the donations that prosecutors allege were illegal.
The charges against Brown are the second black eye for Democrats in the state legislature in recent days. Last week, federal authorities said criminal charges are expected against a sitting state lawmaker in a wide-ranging corruption probe of changes in alcohol laws in Prince George’s County.
A Prince George’s liquor board commissioner, the board’s administrator and two liquor store owners were arrested in that investigation. Authorities say they expect to charge more people in that case, including a former elected official and a state delegate, whose names have not been released.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) appointed Brown to the 40th District legislative seat vacated by Del. Barbara Robinson (D), who was tapped to fill Pugh’s seat in the state Senate.
Brown is a member of the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee legislative delegation, which voted in December to recommend him to the governor to fill the empty seat. He voted in favor of his nomination, according to records posted on the committee website.
Hogan’s office said he rescinded the appointment after the charges against Brown were announced.
Scherod C. Barnes, chair of the central committee, said he’s researching the process for nominating a replacement.
Together, the charges against Brown carry fines of up to $30,000, with the possibility of jail time.
Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt said Brown would be barred from holding public or party office for four years if convicted.
“Election laws are in place to maintain the integrity of the electoral process and foster transparency in the regulation of campaign contributions,” Davitt said in a statement. “Illegal straw contributions in names other than one’s own to evade such laws cannot be tolerated.”
Davitt said Brown has not been arrested and is scheduled to be arraigned in Baltimore City Circuit Court on Feb. 17.