Maryland Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks (D-Baltimore City), who is facing federal corruption charges, was stripped of his committee assignments Monday night following an inquiry by the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics.
Oaks, who did not attend Monday’s session, will no longer serve on the Senate Finance Committee.
He was indicted last year on fraud charges, accused of using his official position to help a phony real estate development in exchange for thousands of dollars in bribes.
Oaks’s trial is set for April 16.
“The committee has identified numerous potential violations of the Maryland Public Ethics Law arising from the actions of Senator Oaks that resulted in the filing of federal criminal charges,” says a letter from the ethics panel, dated Feb. 22.
“These violations may include the misuse of public resources, conflicts of interest, misuse of the prestige of office, improper acceptance of gifts, failure to make required disclosures, and failure to register as a lobbyist.”
Several people, including Gov. Larry Hogan (R), have said Oaks, who faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, should have resigned after his indictment. Others, including the head of the state Republican Party, have called for his ouster.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) referred the allegations against Oaks to the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics to decide what action should be taken.
The committee sought the opinion of acting U.S. attorney Stephen M. Schenning on whether it should suspend its investigation until the trial concluded and asked whether Schenning would provide access to evidence and witnesses in the case.
Schenning replied that it would be best for the committee to suspend its investigation.
The ethics committee made its decision based on the allegations in the criminal complaint and “other related documents.”
Oaks, who has served in the General Assembly for 30 years, was charged in federal court on April 7, a Friday. He shocked his colleagues the following Monday, April 10 — the final day of the session last year — when he walked into the Senate chamber and took his seat.
In November, Oaks was indicted on an additional count of obstruction of justice after being accused of trying to tip off someone under federal investigation while cooperating with the FBI.
This isn’t the first time Oaks has faced criminal charges. He lost his seat in the House of Delegates in the late 1980s after being convicted of stealing thousands of dollars from his campaign account.
He regained his seat in 1994 and was appointed to the state Senate last year to replace a legislator who stepped down because of ill health.
He has shown no sign that he would consider resigning, despite a report in the Baltimore Sun that he confessed to federal authorities to taking bribes. Last week, he filed for reelection.