By Sean Yoes
AFRO Senior Reporter
On April 16, standout Baltimore defense attorney J. Wyndal Gordon held a press conference and offered a blistering verbal indictment of Baltimore Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming’s conduct in office regarding some high profile investigations.
But, on that day he never actually called for her resignation despite a report by David Collins of WBAL-TV to the contrary.
“She has been nothing but beguiling, surreptitious, deceptive and downright sneaky,” Collins reported. “So if you are going to be the ethics official, your reputation, your integrity should be beyond reproach, and that’s not what we see from her.” Yet, the prominent attorney did not call for her resignation at the time.
However, during an interview with the AFRO this week, Gordon unequivocally called for Cumming to step down.
“She should resign because she has cast a dark cloud over her agency,” Gordon said. “Whenever there are ethics questions about your chief ethics officer it generates a lot of distrust around the community,” he added. “And this chief ethics officer has engaged in conduct that brings into question not only her ethics, but her integrity, the bonafides of her investigations and the accuracy of her conclusions.”
Specifically, Gordon cites the significant gulf between the findings of the Cumming investigation into the travel history and expenditures of Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, versus the results of an investigation into the State’s Attorney’s travel conducted by the Maryland Ethics Commission, which was released earlier this month.
In the report filed by the OIG (Office of the Inspector General) in February Cumming examined Mosby’s travel expenditures for two years (2018 and 2019), the gifts she received and her businesses, per her request. The information was reported to the Maryland Ethics Commission on Mosby’s State financial disclosures. In the report the OIG acknowledges that “it is not within the purview of the OIG to make a determination as to whether SA Mosby fully complied with the State Public Ethics Law…” However, the report asserts that there are multiple discrepancies and omissions in Mosby’s filing with the Maryland Ethics Commission. For many there is a strong inference in the OIG’s findings that Mosby was less than transparent in the report and therefore she had something to hide.
When you juxtapose that perceived lack of transparency in the OIG report, with the findings of the Maryland Ethics Commission, which concluded Mosby was actually too transparent in her travel disclosures and that there was “no wrongdoing,” that creates great concern in the mind of Gordon and others.
“Basically, she’s (Cumming) trying to call us a deflection of the federal investigation (into Marilyn and Nick Mosby), when this really has to do with her office and the way she conducts business in the city.”
During an interview with WBAL’s Collins after the Gordon press conference on April 16, Cumming said, “I believe in transparency and accountability. I think my record, my people, what we’ve done all shows clearly that.
However, the disparity between the OIG’s conclusions and those of the Maryland Ethics Commission regarding Mosby raises concerns about arbitrary interpretation or application of ethics rules.
Back in February, Mayor Brandon Scott alluded to the issue when he announced the convening of a 90-day work group to review the city’s administrative manual.
“Establishing this workgroup is about proactively working toward clarity around travel and notification policy for all public officials once and for all,” Scott said on February 17, about a week after the OIG’s report on Mosby’s travel was released.
Beyond the OIG’s handling of the Mosby investigation, Gordon points to a meeting between Cumming and members of her team and a coalition of city leaders led by Gordon and Kobi Little, president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP that happened in March.
There was allegedly an agreement between the two factions not to discuss the meeting with the media until after a joint statement was released. Gordon argues Cumming broke that agreement (a consensus was never reached on the joint statement) almost immediately during an interview with Fox 45 the following day.
“She double crossed us,” Gordon said. “She was never really acting in good faith. It was just a put on to say she sat down with city leaders.”
Cumming also allegedly told a Fox 45 reporter that she would amend her report on Mosby’s travel expenditures if the Baltimore City Solicitor Jim Shea contradicted her findings, which he did in February. Shea, like the Ethics Board, found no wrongdoing in Mosby’s reporting of her travel expenditures. But, apparently there has been no amendment. “The IG stands by her report,” said Anthony McCarthy, Special Agent for Communications, Office of the Inspector General.
“She’s broken promises, she’s been dismissive,” Gordon said. “And I’ll reiterate what I said previously, she’s been downright sneaky.”