(UPDATED) — Baltimore mayoral candidate Thiru Vignarajah, a former Maryland deputy attorney general, has released his tax returns dating back to 2013 and urged the city council to pursue a charter amendment mandating city elected officials do likewise.
Vignarajah, a Democrat who announced his mayoral bid last week, argued that financial transparency is necessary for residents to regain faith in city government. His campaign said it believes the candidate is the first in city history to release federal and state returns.
“No resident of Baltimore should have to wonder if city leaders are putting their private financial interests above the public’s interest,” Vignarajah said in a statement. “From gift cards to tax fraud to book deals, simple transparency and honesty could’ve saved Baltimore from a decade of disgrace and distraction, letting us focus on schools not scandals, crime not corruption.”
Vignarajah’s tax returns show he earned roughly $97,500 from his job as a prosecutor in the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s office. In 2018 he reported roughly $401,300 in self-employment earnings as a partner at DLA Piper.
Vignarajah, who ran for Baltimore State’s Attorney in 2018, finishing third in a three-way primary, was the first candidate of note to announce his mayor campaign after a controversy erupted regarding payments Mayor Catherine Pugh received for self-published children’s books.
The mayor, currently on medical leave, faces calls to resign amid potential investigations into her receipt of at least $800,000 for her “Healthy Holly” books from the University of Maryland Medical System, Kaiser Permanente, Associated Black Charities and others.
A potential primary rival, former Mayor Sheila Dixon, resigned in 2010 after taking a plea deal stemming from corruption charges. She narrowly lost the 2016 primary to Pugh.
The council would need to approve any charter amendment requiring city elected officials release tax returns, such as Vignarajah proposes. Any proposed charter amendments are unlikely to receive consideration until after the 2020 Democratic primary in April.
Councilman Eric Costello, chairman of the Judiciary & Legislative Investigations Committee, which is responsible for hearings on any legislation proposing charter amendments, said he will not hold hearings until late spring or early summer of 2020. A charter amendment must be approved by city voters and could not be voted on prior to the November 2020 General Election.
“No charter amendments are going to get a hearing until next summer. We don’t need to be distracted by that. We’ve got enough work on our hands right now,” Costello said during a Greater Baltimore Committee event last week.