A former aide to Del. Hasan “Jay” Jalisi, disciplined by the legislature this year for bullying his staff, has filed a claim against the Baltimore County Democrat seeking back wages and damages.
Brian Agandi, of Middle River, filed the lawsuit against Jalisi Tuesday in the District Court for Baltimore County. He is seeking compensatory as well as punitive damages against the delegate.
According to the lawsuit, Agandi was working as a security guard in December 2018 when he responded to an advertisement on Craigslist for a public relations position for HJM Management, a property management firm owned and operated by Jalisi.
After learning of Agandi’s experience as a legislative assistant in Annapolis, Jalisi offered Agandi a job working in his legislative office in Annapolis, promising an hourly rate of $20 per hour to be paid by the Maryland General Assembly. Agandi, in his lawsuit, stated that Jalisi knowingly made the offer despite being barred from hiring aides until he completed anger management classes, which he was required to take before the start of the 2019 General Assembly session.
Jalisi failed to complete the mandated classes, according to a 2019 report of the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee.
Agandi states in the lawsuit that he quit his security guard job and worked 32-hour weeks for Jalisi between Jan. 2 and 31. He was never paid despite Jalisi’s repeated assurances that a paycheck was coming, according to the court filing.
Agandi is seeking $2,670 in back pay as well as punitive damages of $27,379 “for the intentional and malicious acts carried out by Delegate Jalisi” as well as more than $7,800 — treble damages for Jalisi’s violation of state labor and employment laws.
Agandi is being represented by James Astrachan and Trisha Scott of Astrachan Gunst Thomas PC. Astrachan leads The Daily Record’s editorial advisory board.
Jalisi was not immediately available for comment.
The House of Delegates in March voted unanimously to reprimand Jalisi for a pattern of abusive behavior and acts of bullying directed at his own staff and others.
A report issued by the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics detailed five years of incidents dating back to when Jalisi was sworn into office in his first term and to multiple attempts to get the recalcitrant delegate to change his ways.
The committee’s 16-page report documented incidents in which Jalisi was accused of bullying or demeaning his own staff and others legislative aides dating back to 2015. The panel recommended Jalisi be for sanctioned after he had been warned numerous times about his behavior by both the ethics panel and House Speaker Michael E. Busch.
As part of those warnings, Jalisi was ordered to undergo anger management and told not to hire staff until he completed those courses. In one case, he was asked to leave a hotel where he was staying as delegate after the business complained that Jalisi was abusive to hotel employees.
The House ultimately adopted the committee’s request that Jalisi be stripped of his legislative staff and prohibited from hiring new staff until he completes anger management classes.
Jalisi in comments earlier this year denied the allegations, calling it “a smear campaign.” He added that none of the complaints that were part of the investigation “came from my personal staff who have worked for me day-in and day-out for months and years.”
Jalisi said in March that his staff, which had not been paid this year, was given a choice by human resources to be transferred or “lose their jobs.”
“Each one of them opted to keep working for my office and got terminated without written notice,” Jalisi wrote. “If the allegations of verbal abuse were true, my staff should have been the first ones to agree to move to another position and keep their jobs.”