Category Archives: Ethics

Guys Like Del. Jalisi Don’t Belong in Public Office

Del. Mary Ann Listanti (D-Harford) has been roundly and rightly called out for using a horrible racist slur ever since Ovetta Wiggins’s reporting over at the Washington Post brought it to public attention. Many of her colleagues, party officials, and activists have called for her resignation.

Bizarrely, however, the General Assembly has appeared far more tolerant of Del. Jay Jalisi’s (D-Baltimore County) repeatedly harmful actions in his public and private life as opposed to Lisanti’s hurtful words. Recall that Wiggins also reported that Del. Jay Jalisi’s daughter successfully applied for a protective order in 2015:

According to court documents, Jalisi’s daughter, 18-year-old Alizay Jalisi, applied for the protective order after her father allegedly slapped her late last month during an argument, the Associated Press reported. He was not criminally charged in the case, and Jalisi has denied the allegations.

“I just chose to be the parent and end the dispute with my child and save my family from more trauma,” Jalisi said in a text Monday night. “There was no finding of guilt by the court. And I am sure everything would be normalized within my family soon since the media spotlight would not be on us after today.”

Personally, I don’t believe Del. Jalisi’s denial, as no one, least of all someone in public office, would willingly accede to a protective order due to a domestic violence claim if it had not occurred. Even if the judge didn’t find him legally “guilty,” there was sufficient evidence to grant the order. As an elected official and a physician, Del. Jalisi also certainly had the agency and the ability to fight the allegations. (In an unusual career path, Del. Jalisi has now left medicine to become a real estate investor.)

The only consequence for Jalisi in the General Assembly was a transfer of committee assignments. Now, the Ethics Committee reports that Del. Jalisi has been abusing his staff and cheating them out of pay that they earned for years and has flouted past committee judgements. His atrocious behavior began soon after he was sworn into the House in 2015:

According to sworn testimony and contemporaneous emails, Delegate Jalisi instructed an aide to work approximately 100 hours of overtime, but refused to approve timesheets reflecting those hours. Delegate Jalisi also refused to allow the aide to leave work when the Maryland General Assembly was on liberal leave status and all bill hearings had been canceled due to inclement weather

According to sworn testimony, Delegate Jalisi’s behavior toward his 2015 legislative staff was “unpredictable” and often “volatile.” Delegate Jalisi treated his staff as “truant” if they left to go to the restroom or to get lunch, and required his staff to keep daily logs of their work and justify to him how the tasks listed on their logs met their job requirements. Delegate Jalisi belittled his staff and accused them of failing to complete their tasks.

Once again, Del. Jalisi denied everything despite a wealth of testimony, evidence and contemporary written accounts of his behavior. Del. Jalisi was similarly “bullying,” “abusive” and “belligerent” in 2016, 2017, 2018, and now in 2019. State troopers were called in during one incident at the Clerk’s office. People in an adjoining office filed a complaint after overhearing his loud abuse of staff. Unacceptable behavior is not a one-off for Del. Jalisi.

The General Assembly reacted very slowly to Del. Jalisi’s repeat offenses:

  • In 2015, the Ethics Committee sent him an admonishing letter stating that his behavior “reflected poorly” on the General Assembly.
  • The Speaker and Majority Whip spoke to him about the complaint and further bad behavior in 2016.
  • In 2017, the Speaker and the Majority Whip “counseled” Del. Jalisi in March and again in October about his improper treatment of staff in both the Human Resources and Clerk’s offices.
  • The Ethics Committee recommended in 2018 that Del. Jalisi not be allowed to have staff starting in 2019 if he did not complete anger management training. The committee essentially reiterated its recommendation when another incident occurred.

Del. Jalisi didn’t complete anger management training by the start of the 2019 session. According to the Ethics Committee report, he nonetheless hired staff and then later falsely promised that his company would pay the staffer when it became clear that the General Assembly would not.

The Ethics Committee recommendations are now stronger, recommending a reprimand by the full House of Delegates and that Del. Jalisi lose committee assignments as well as staff if he doesn’t completely anger management by the start of the 2020 session.

This is too little, too late. Del. Jalisi should resign.

Since Angry Delegate seems unlikely to pursue that course, he should be immediately removed from committees and prohibited from participating in any House activities beyond casting his vote, including county delegation and Democratic Caucus meetings. This should continue until he shows a stronger commitment beyond one anger management course towards mending his ways and should include restitution in some form to the many people he has abused in public office.

The people of Baltimore County and the citizens of Maryland deserve better. Though I laud its recent report, the Ethics Committee also needs to examine why it did not take action with meaningful consequences until the fourth year of Del. Jalisi’s unacceptable pattern of bullying and abuse.

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Bananacakes or Not? Cooper Says No, 7S Says Oh Yeah.

Jordan Cooper response to Adam Pagnucco on “Bananacakes or Not?”:

In a recent Seventh State post on February 26th the following is written: “And so we have something extremely rare in MoCo politics: a candidate who drafts a questionnaire for other candidates with an endorsement on the line.” I’d like to correct the record with examples to the contrary:

Serving as a member of the Maryland General Assembly is considered to be a part-time job. State delegates and senators frequently have other means of employment concurrent with their service in elected office. Indeed even members of the Montgomery County Council, which is considered by many to be a full-time legislative body, have additional part-time positions. Just as many members of the legislature and many candidates for elected office have other jobs, so too do I as the host Public Interest Podcast. It is entirely within the realm of accepted practice for candidates and elected officials to be involved with political organizations and for those organizations to issue endorsement questionnaires.

I’d like to add that Public Interest Podcast is a non-partisan entity and, much like The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, and other periodicals, issuing endorsements in no way diminishes the non-partisan nature of the endorsing organization. Endorsements will be issued by Public Interest Podcast based solely upon candidate responses to the questionnaire regardless of party affiliation and regardless of whether those candidates’ views are aligned with my own political views.

Seventh State Disagrees.

Adam: I am not defending those other organizations. But there is a difference here: they involve more than one person and can establish recusal procedures. You ARE Public Interest Podcast. There is nothing else there other than you recording interviews with people.

David: I called out Progressive Neighbors four years ago for having a ridiculous number of candidates on their board. Dana Beyer even sent a questionnaire to her opponent. I believe that they’ve fixed the problem and have no candidates on their current Steering Committee. Adam is also correct that PIP is you of course.

Jordan’s Response:

I hadn’t thought of a recusal process before. I could very well have someone else go through the endorsement responses and give them metrics for endorsement, say 7 of 9 questions have a Yes. That would be very fair wouldn’t it? In any case I can assure you that Republicans with whom I disagree personally on many issues will receive a Public Interest Podcast endorsement. I just don’t see a conflict of interest here. Perhaps we’ll have to agree to disagree on this. I did ask quite a few people before I sent out the questionnaire if they thought it was ethical or would present any problems and they told me that as long as I keep the campaign separate from the podcast there’s no reason why I shouldn’t use this opportunity to get candidates speaking about some of the issues I raised that no one else is talking about.

Final Thoughts

David: People frequently misunderstand that someone who recuses themselves from a process does not participate in it. Someone who designs a process for rating other candidates has not recused himself. I don’t see how one can keep the campaign separate from the podcast.

 

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Did Simonaire Violate Ethics Rules with Commercial?

Sen. Bryan Simonaire’s (R-31) Commercial

Sen. Bryan Simonaire (R-31, Anne Arundel) has done a commercial for Walt Eger’s auto service center. In the commercial, shown above, Sen. Simonaire uses his title and appears in front of his vehicle complete with Senate license plate and a Simonaire-State Senate sticker on the front of the hood.

The ethics laws governing conduct by members of the General Assembly prohibit commercials like this in a clearcut manner:

Use of Prestige of Office (§ 15-506) The Ethics Law prohibits the intentional use of a legislator’s “prestige of office” for private gain or that of another, but allows the performance of usual and customary constituent services that are provided without compensation.

Even more specifically, the ethics guidelines state:

Do not publicly endorse a commercial entity or product under circumstances that invoke one’s position as a legislator.

Unfortunately for Sen. Simonaire, this is exactly what he did.

If Sen. Simonaire got paid to do the commercials, that would move the problem to selling the prestige of office instead of just using it for the private gain of another.

Simonaire Serves on Ethics Reform Committee

Sen. Simonaire serves currently on the Senate Special Committee on Ethics Reform. In the past, he also was a member of the Work Group to Review Disclosure Requirements of the Public Ethics Law. While ignorance of the law would not serve an excuse, it seems especially thin in this case.

Eger Made Campaign Contributions to Simonaire

Sen. Simonaire received $1000 in campaign contributions from Walt Eger in 2014 election cycle, according to his campaign finance report filed on October 19, 2014.

This same report also reveal loans by Sen. Simonaire in the amount of $54,100 to his own campaign. The most recently filed report indicates that the loan amount remains the same, so it does not appear that the Eger’s contribution has been used towards reimbursing that loan.

The reported cash balance for Simonaire’s campaign committee is $36,701.47. Simonaire could conceivably use funds to pay back the loans. But many legislators never reimburse themselves for these loans and carry them forward for many years.

Conclusion

This could all be friendly in the sense that Walt Eger likes Sen. Bryan Simonaire enough to donate to his campaign. Similarly, Sen. Simonaire could want to help out his friend’s business.

The problem is this sort of cozy relationship that works to the commercial benefit of Walt Eger and the political benefit of Sen. Simonaire is exactly what the General Assembly’s ethics rules are designed to prevent.

This likely serious violation of ethics rules will provide a test for not only how the General Assembly handles these problems–including the leadership of both parties–but also how Gov. Larry Hogan addresses problems within the party that he heads.

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