Mayor Catherine Pugh announced yesterday that her aide Gary Brown, indicted last week on campaign finance charges, is keeping his job in her office. The Sun has the story:
Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh said Wednesday that she is standing by her longtime aide, Gary Brown Jr., who was indicted last week on charges that he violated campaign finance laws.
Pugh said Brown will continue to work in her mayoral communications office, where he is paid $46,000 annually. She said Brown is “innocent unless proven otherwise” of charges that he illegally funneled money to her campaign through his relatives.
“Gary Brown has worked for us for almost a decade,” she said. “He’s a very good legislative person.”
She also noted that the amount of money involved in the case — $18,000 — is relatively small when compared to the more than $2.5 million she raised while running for mayor.
“We raised over $2 million,” she said. “If there is anything wrong with the funds we received, they will go back. We have returned checks in the past, and we will do that again.”
I’m all for personal loyalty (as anyone who knows me can attest) but the optics of this stink for the mayor. It’s highly likely that Gary Brown knows a whole lot about more than just the three transactions he’s being charged with, and it’s likely that the state prosecutor will be dangling all kinds of possibilities for a lighter sentence in return for what Brown knows.
I agree that the presumption of innocence mandates that Brown should be able to keep his job, but the enthusiastic and vigorous endorsement of Brown by the mayor is more than a little bit unseemly. It reeks of an unspoken exhortation to Brown to keep quiet and take whatever punishment is coming down the pike. That may not be what she meant, but it sure seems that way.
On the issue of how far this might go, the Baltimore City Paper first wrote about Pugh’s campaign donations back in February, following the first campaign finance reports bring filed in January. There’s been more analysis since then, during which the Gary Brown transactions were revealed.
To be clear, I have no dog in this fight. I have several friends who worked on Mayor Pugh’s campaign, I was pleased that she won, and I have high hopes for her success as mayor. But everything I’m discussing here is public knowledge and known by pretty much everyone with a pulse in Baltimore. The bottom line is there’s going to be more to this story.