Maryland’s Office of the State Prosecutor charged the chief of staff for a state delegate Thursday with violating election laws over the summer through a robocall attempting to link a fellow delegate to support for transgender rights.
Tyler Walch, who was a top aide for Del. Richard K. Impallaria, R-Baltimore and Harford, is charged with violating the authority line requirements in connection with the call, which went out June 25 — the day before the primary election — to approximately 9,000 voters.
Impallaria told The Washington Post Thursday that Walch was dismissed by the legislature. A spokesperson for House Speaker Michael Busch confirmed Friday that Walch is no longer with the legislature.
The charges were filed in Baltimore County District Court and announced Thursday by State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt. The maximum penalty is one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Walch could not be reached for comment.
The call purported to be from a donor to the National Center for Transgender Equality asking individuals to support Del. Kathy Szeliga, a Republican delegate representing Harford and Baltimore counties, as “a true friend of the Transgender Community.”
The speaker praised Szeliga for supporting a 2016 bill prohibiting workplace discrimination based on gender identity.
In a statement Thursday, Szeliga said the call was an “attack” against her and its contents were “incredibly divisive.”
“All politics and personalities aside, willfully and knowingly misleading voters is shameful and wrong,” Szeliga said. “I’m old school, I believe anonymous acts are often a sign of cowardice,” she said. “If you have something to say, and you believe what you’re saying, you should put your name on it.”
The call did not state whether it was authorized by any candidate or that Walch or the Friends of Rick Impallaria campaign were behind the call, according to a news release from the Office of the State Prosecutor.
Impallaria said Walch is an honorably discharged veteran and “does fantastic work” when informed of the charges by The Daily Record on Thursday.
“It’s simple: We live in America and when someone can prove to me that he’s guilty of something, then I’ll discuss it, and until then we have the presumption of innocence,” he said.
At the time, Impallaria said the charges would not impact Walch’s role with his office.
According to the charging document, Walch communicated the contents of the call to Impallaria before it was disseminated.
Impallaria denied any knowledge about the call Thursday and said he never approved or paid for it.
“It had nothing to do with me,” he said.
Davitt said Thursday he could not comment on his office’s evidence at this stage in the case.
“We’ll just have to present our evidence in court and do our talking in the courtroom,” he said.
Both Impallaria and Szeliga were re-elected in November.
The case is State of Maryland v. Tyler Walch, 3C00471579.