Maryland lawmaker reprimanded for ‘bullying’ staff

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A Maryland lawmaker was reprimanded Wednesday for what was described as an ongoing and unrepentant pattern of bullying and abusive behavior over several years, particularly against female staffers, as ethical concerns again took up the time of the legislature as it neared the end of its 90-day session.

The vote in the House of Delegates to reprimand Del. Jay Jalisi, a Baltimore County Democrat, was 136-0.

“Delegate Jalisi has belittled General Assembly employees, misled his staff, refused to provide payment for the services provided by his staff after being informed that he was not entitled to General Assembly paid staff, displayed dominating and controlling behavior, and deliberately ignored directives of the Speaker, the Speaker’s staff, and Human Resources,” an ethics committee report said. “Furthermore, the Ethics Committee finds that Delegate Jalisi attempted to shield his conduct from public view by attacking and retaliating against an individual who participated in the Ethics Committee’s review.”

Even a hotel in the state capital has barred Jalisi from being a guest anymore this year, after confrontations with hotel staff during his stay, the report said.

Jalisi, who was absent for the vote, has denounced the accusations against him and called them “a nasty smear campaign.”

“I am hopeful that my constituents will continue to stand with me and not be swayed by this political hit job!” Jalisi wrote in a statement Tuesday.

But the ethics panel of House and Senate lawmakers contends its recommended sanctions were based on 38 interviews and 18 sworn affidavits.

Jalisi’s treatment of his legislative staff prompted House leadership to forbid him to have paid staff until he took part in anger management, the ethics report said. But Jalisi kept getting people to work for him, telling them he’d pay them later. One person interviewed by the committee described the work environment as “toxic,” and testified that Jalisi had no patience or self-control.

With less than two weeks left in the state’s legislative session, the report on Jalisi created another unwelcome distraction for the House of Delegates. Late last month, the House voted unanimously to censure a white legislator for making a racist slur about a legislative district in a majority-black county at an after-hours gathering with fellow legislators. Del. Mary Ann Lisanti has refused to resign, despite repeated calls from Maryland political leaders of both parties and civil rights groups.

House Speaker Michael Busch, a Democrat, kicked Lisanti off a legislative committee and stripped her of a leadership post. That could happen to Jalisi too, if he continues to avoid taking part in an anger management program, according to recommendations from the ethics panel.

Lawmakers also have been reacting to reports this month that one-third of the University of Maryland Medical System’s board members have received compensation through the medical system’s arrangements with their businesses. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh stepped down from the board after The Baltimore Sun reported she sold self-published children’s books to the system for half a million dollars. Two other board members also resigned, and four others went on voluntary leave, while the system reviews governance practices. The president and CEO of the system was recently sent on a temporary leave of absence.

Lawmakers introduced legislation late in the session to reform the system’s board.

This week, lawmakers approved budget legislation that cuts $642,600 from the University System of Maryland office to show displeasure with what has been described as a lack of transparency and accountability. Lawmakers have pointed to actions in the aftermath of a football player’s death last year, as well as concerns about the university system chancellor promoting a jewelry company’s charm bracelets and how his chief of staff was treated for raising an ethics concern. The cut is equal to Chancellor Robert Caret’s annual salary.

Lawmakers also decided to withhold another $200,000, unless the system office submits a report on any outside income Caret received in fiscal years 2017, 2018 and 2019.