Banner political notes: Verdict goes against 2 politicians

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A federal jury found this week that two Anne Arundel County politicians owe a former worker at a gym they co-own nearly $5,000 after she alleged she was improperly fired.

The former worker brought the lawsuit against Del. Brian Chisholm and former Del. Sid Saab in 2021, claiming that she was fired in 2019 after reporting a manager for sexual harassment.

“We’re not accusing Saab or Chisholm of sexual harassment, but certainly they’re aiding and abetting harassment by penalizing the person who’s bringing it to their attention and retaliating against them,” the former employee’s attorney, Sundeep Hora, told the Capital newspaper in 2021.

Chisholm and Saab, both Anne Arundel County Republicans, bought Rockwell Fitness in Severna Park in 2018 through a limited liability company, 331B LLC. They argued that the former employee, who was a part-time bookkeeper and administrative assistant, was let go because of issues with her timecard.

The former employee’s lawsuit alleged that once she was fired, she didn’t receive all of the pay owed to her, and that the company disputed her claim for unemployment benefits. Following a five-day trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, a jury awarded the former employee $4,940 in compensatory damages.

Hora said, in talking to jurors afterward, that amount represented six months’ worth of pay and day care costs. The lawsuit, he said, was less about money and more about vindication for his client.

“We were thrilled she was able to get justice,” Hora said.

Jason Buckel, a Republican state delegate and attorney representing Chisholm and Saab, sees the verdict differently.

“At the end of the day, a jury verdict awarding her an incredibly de minimus amount reflects it wasn’t a very serious case,” he said.

A ‘Tree-Mendous’ celebration

Since April, Maryland motorists have had the option to donate to the Pamela J. Kelly Tree-Mendous Maryland tree-planting program when renewing their vehicle registration — and they’ve been generous.

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The donation program has raised $67,000 so far — enough to plant more than 1,600 trees through the program, which is run by the state Department of Natural Resources.

To celebrate, state natural resources and transportation officials planted a serviceberry tree outside the MVA headquarters and branch in Glen Burnie on Friday.

“We’re proud to offer our customers an opportunity to contribute to Maryland’s environment and build a better future for the communities we serve,” MVA Administrator Christine Nizer said in a statement. “We hope that our customers consider making a tree-mendous donation during their vehicle registration renewal transaction.”

Forward Party has their first candidate

The Forward Party isn’t yet an officially recognized political party in Maryland, but they’ve got their first candidate.

Stephen McDow, a registered Democrat running for a seat in Congress, is now affiliated with the Maryland Forward Party and will run as a “Forward Democrat.”

The centrist Forward Party is the brainchild of Andrew Yang, who ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for president in 2020 and New York City mayor in 2021.

The Maryland Forward Party was formed earlier this year with hopes of getting 10,000 signatures to qualify as a state-recognized party.

The Maryland Forward Party plans to endorse candidates from other parties “who demonstrate a commitment to election reform, innovative solutions and civil discourse,” according to a statement from the party.

Matthew Beyers, state party chair, said he hopes the signature collection effort will “greatly benefit” from having affiliated candidates. He declined to say how many signatures have been collected so far.

McDow is part of a crowded field of candidates for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, which will be an open seat in 2024 with U.S. Rep. David Trone giving it up to make a run for U.S. Senate. The district includes part of Montgomery County and stretches north through Frederick County and out to Western Maryland.

McDow, a resident of Monrovia in Frederick County, is among several candidates for the seat, though the deadline to file candidacy paperwork isn’t until February.

Other Democrats who have announced runs include: Del. Lesley Lopez from Montgomery County, currently chair of the Women’s Caucus in Annapolis; Del. Joe Vogel, a first-term lawmaker from Montgomery County; Ashwani Jain, who won 2.05% of the vote in the Democratic primary for governor last year; Mia Mason, a veteran who hopes to become the first transgender woman to serve in Congress; and George Gluck of Montgomery County.

Three Republicans have filed candidacy paperwork with the state: Chris Hyser of Frederick County; Todd Puglisi of Montgomery County; and Mariela Roca of Frederick County.

Hearing scheduled to address payment delays in Baltimore homelessness office

Baltimore City Council President Nick J. Mosby has called for a hearing with the full council and the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services to address the agency’s delays in paying contractors for services.

The Baltimore Banner first reported on the delays last month, when five tenants who have their rental payments covered by a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant faced eviction after the nonprofit organization responsible for paying the bills stopped paying on time. The organization, Dayspring, blamed the payment problems on the city‘s lateness.

Representatives from the homelessness office acknowledged the problems earlier this week, days after additional reporting from The Baltimore Banner chronicled a cascade of errors in the city agency in a separate matter that could cost the city more than $10 million.

The brief comments came Thursday at a regularly scheduled board meeting of Baltimore’s homeless service providers.

“Let me just address a couple of things,” Roland R. Selby, Jr., chief of staff for the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services, said at the Baltimore City Continuum of Care meeting. “There are some challenges that were being faced with landlords being paid. We are working diligently to get that situation resolved.”

The city is now “caught up” on what it owes to housing providers, Selby told the room, with payments completed to “a number of the providers” mentioned in The Banner’s reporting.

Tuesday’s hearing will “examine MOHS’ role in processing payments to housing providers and consider measures the city can implement to improve that system to protect tenants from eviction proceedings,” according to a Thursday memo from Mosby’s office.

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