A Maryland lawmaker is facing discipline from the House of Delegates after an ethics committee investigation found he subjected his staff — particularly female employees — to bullying and verbal and emotional abuse.
Del. Jay Jalisi ignored entreaties from Speaker of the House Michael E. Busch and other legislative leaders to change his behavior, according to the 16-page committee report made public late Monday.
The House of Delegates is expected to vote on a resolution of reprimand Wednesday that will require Jalisi (D-Baltimore County) to complete anger management and civility programs. If Jalisi refuses to attend the programs, he will be stripped of his committee assignments and could face further investigation. The lawmaker was absent from the House legislative session Tuesday morning.
Jalisi, a doctor and businessman, is the second Maryland lawmaker accused of serious misconduct during this year’s legislative session. Del. Mary Ann Lisanti (D-Harford) was censured last month for using a racial epithet to describe a Prince George’s County legislative district.
The report on Jalisi’s behavior detailed incidents dating back to 2015 — Jalisi’s first year in office — in which aides complained that he forced staffers to work long hours without compensation, yelled at them and treated them as truant if they went to the restroom or to get lunch. At least one incident escalated to the point where state troopers had to intervene.
The Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics interviewed more than three dozen former and current State House employees under oath, the report said. They said Jalisi consistently berated and took advantage of his staff, targeting longtime General Assembly workers with condescending rants and accusing them of sabotage.
Jalisi allegedly told one person who worked in his office that the person was “stupid,” and made the person “stand in the delegate’s office and repeat, ‘I am incompetent. I am incompetent.’ ”
“The Ethics Committee cannot simply stand by and allow a member to continue to use his stature as a legislator to act inappropriately and abuse and retaliate against staff,” the report said. Jalisi’s actions, the report said, “have brought dishonor on this Body.”
Jalisi declined to testify on his own behalf during the investigation, the report says, although he provided a written response denying most of the allegations and saying he could not respond to the rest because there was insufficient information about them.
In a statement released just after midnight Tuesday, Jalisi said he was not given “an opportunity to be heard” during the probe, which he denounced as a “smear campaign” and a “sham investigation.”
The report says legislative leaders tried repeatedly to compel Jalisi to take anger management classes or otherwise address his behavior, and Busch (D-Anne Arundel) told him in August that he would not have access to state funds to pay his staff if he refused.
Jalisi said in his statement that his staffers have not been paid since January. He noted that other lawmakers disciplined in past years did not have their payroll privileges revoked.
Busch said Tuesday morning that the report “speaks for itself.”
Jalisi’s alleged belligerence extended beyond the State House, the report said. He was reportedly barred from a hotel in Annapolis where he had stayed during the start of the General Assembly session because of confrontations he had with hotel employees.
In 2015, a judge ordered Jalisi to stay away from his teenage daughter after an alleged domestic violence altercation. He was subsequently reassigned out of the House Judiciary Committee, a panel that oversees domestic violence legislation.
Jalisi’s reprimand comes a little more than a year after the state’s top lawmakers created a commission to strengthen the General Assembly’s policy on sexual harassment and workplace bullying. The commission, which came on the heels of the #MeToo movement, was tasked with examining ways to prevent misconduct and how to handle complaints.
The last Maryland lawmaker to be formally reprimanded by the House was then-Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) in 2017. He had advocated for policies that benefit medical marijuana companies without fully disclosing that he was a consultant for one.
Last year, Del. Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore City) was stripped of his leadership positions after the ethics committee found he had made inappropriate sexual comments. The ethics committee also investigated a 14-year-old sexual assault claim against Anderson but was unable to determine if the allegation was true.
A censure, the punishment imposed on Lisanti last month for using a racial slur, is more severe than a reprimand, second only to expulsion. Lisanti’s censure was the first one imposed by the House in decades, staffers said.
Lisanti also was stripped of her committee assignments. She has refused to resign, despite multiple demands for her to do so. On Friday night, a group of constituents protested in her district, saying she should relinquish her seat.
Before Lisanti, the last Maryland lawmaker to be censured was then-Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s), in 2012. He had been acquitted of federal bribery and corruption charges.
Erin Cox contributed to this report.