Despite facing charges of violating campaign finance laws, Gary L. Brown Jr. is still working for Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh. And the Pugh Administration is keeping him on the job for the time being.
“We certainly believe that Gary should have his day in court and that a decision will be made at that time by the court,” said Mayoral Spokesman Anthony McCarthy.
Brown has been indicted by a grand jury in January for exceeding campaign contribution limits. State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt is accusing Brown of depositing a total of $18,000 into the bank accounts of his mother, stepfather and brother which in turn was donated to Pugh’s mayoral campaign between January and April 2016.
It remains unknown where Brown got the money from. Davitt declined to discuss specifics of the case.
Brown, who pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in February, has a court date scheduled for May 31, according to online judicial records. Brown’s attorney, Jason Downs, declined to comment.
Meantime, Brown, 35, continues his $46,000 a year job as deputy coordinator of special events in the mayor’s office. McCarthy said he is “intimately involved” in planning events like those for the upcoming African-American Heritage Month and Jazz Appreciation Month.
He is also a member of the City Democratic Central Committee. The committee’s website lists Brown as treasurer. But according to Committee Chairman Scherod Barnes, Brown stepped down from that position in January. Barnes declined to comment on the charges.
Brown being able to stay in his job as criminal proceedings play out is unusual in politics. Todd Eberly, a political science professor with St. Mary’s College of Maryland, says the norm is typically someone close to an official who is charged or accused of wrong doing is either suspended or steps away temporarily but is not necessarily fired.
“In order to create the impression among the public that you’re not ignoring the severity of the charges, you respond,” Eberly said. “And that response is usually some abdication of their responsibility.”
For example, Carl O. Snowden took a temporary, unpaid leave of absence as director of the Maryland Attorney General’s Civil Rights Office when he was charged with marijuana possession in 2012. Snowden said his step back was in preparation of suing Anne Arundel County for an alleged dossier created by then-County Executive John Leopold.
An aide to the Mayor Teresa Tomlinson of Columbus, Ga. was suspended in 2014 after she asked for a campaign sign of an opponent on city time. According to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, the aide said it was to pull a prank on her boss.
McCarthy himself was placed on leave in 2007 because of a Baltimore County Police investigation while he was spokesman for then-Mayor Sheila Dixon. He was accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with a teenage boy. According to the Baltimore Sun, McCarthy left the Dixon Administration at the time. The investigation was dropped months later; McCarthy was not charged with any crime.
Eberly points to the divisive mayoral campaign last year, where Pugh won, in part, because of Dixon’s conviction over stolen gift cards in 2010. And supporters of Dixon, who was mounting a political comeback, are still questioning the legitimacy of her defeat.
“Now you have someone who is an aide to the winner who stands accused of being directly involved with violating donation limits by using family members,” Eberly said adding the importance of optics in politics where innocent until proven guilty doesn’t necessarily hold true.
“This creates an impression of improper or inappropriate behavior among someone who was very close to the mayor that you would think the response would be [to] ask this person to step aside until we clear this matter.”
Brown has been a long-time aide to Pugh going back to when she was a state senator. He became the main point of contact for the media during her mayoral campaign after she won the primary, taking over for Anthony McCarthy who was hired as main spokesman for the waning days of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s term.
The Pugh Administration continues to stand by Brown.
“We’ll let [the legal] process play itself out,” McCarthy said.