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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Defendant in defamation lawsuit asks that Del. Impallaria be censured

Del. Rick Impallaria (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Del. Rick Impallaria (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

A Harford County Republican is asking a legislative ethics panel to impose one of the severest forms of punishment on a sitting state delegate who is suing him for defamation.

Chris Biggs, of Abingdon, is asking the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics to recommend censure for Del. Richard “Rick” Impallaria, R-Harford and Baltimore counties. In two separate filings with the committee obtained by The Daily Record, Biggs alleges that Impallaria filed the defamation suit in  retaliation for an earlier complaint to the ethics committee and complains that Impallaria misused his official title when he filed one of his defamation lawsuits.

Biggs asks the committee to censure Impallaria for his lawsuit against him “to indicate that it is the will of the General Assembly to not allow citizens to be intimidated by threats of legal action when they shine a light on activity that violates the letter or the spirit of the ethics article.”

Censure is the most severe form of punishment short of expulsion.

Impallaria said he has not spoken to the ethics committee about the complaints.

“Fortunately we have a legal system where we try to resolve these things in court,” said Impallaria. “It would be nice if we could resolve them on a basketball court or a tennis court, but we don’t do it that way. We resolve them in a court. That’s what we’re doing. It’s the legal, ethical way to do things. When people owe you money, you go to court. When people damage your property, you go to court. You don’t do what they do in Baltimore City to resolve the issues.”

“People shouldn’t be wasting money sending false reports,” Impallaria said. “That’s just sad that they do that.”

Two members of the House of Delegates were publicly reprimanded in 2019 including Del. Mary Ann Lisanti, D-Harford County, who was censured for using a racial slur to describe a portion of Prince George’s County.

Impallaria, 56, filed separate defamation lawsuits against Biggs and Carol Kiple, another Harford County Republican, after both filed separate complaints with the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee.

Biggs filed two complaints in January.

In the first, he questioned the appropriateness of Impallaria receiving sports and concert tickets from an aide. The committee dismissed that, saying the prohibition on gifts applies only to persons having a financial interest who could be affected by the actions of the legislature.

In the second, Biggs alleged that Impallaria failed to properly disclose an outside job on annual ethics disclosure forms. The committee found that Impallaria, while disclosing the employment in some years, had in fact failed to disclose outside employment consistently. The ethics panel ultimately decided to take no action against Impallaria after he filed amended reports and promised the panel he would be more diligent in his disclosures.

Kiple, who also is being sued by Impallaria for defamation, filed a complaint with the ethics committee alleging that the delegate used his state printer for campaign materials.

The ethics committee, in a letter to Impallaria, said it could find no evidence that he had committed the ethical breach and dismissed the complaint.

The work of the committee is confidential by law.

In his lawsuits, Impallaria claims unspecified damages to his reputation as a result of the filings. The complaints and the committee’s decisions did not become public until Impallaria included letters from the committee in his public court filings.

Brian Young, a Bel Air attorney who represents both Biggs and Kiple, declined to comment on the ethics complaints filed by his client “but (I)  look forward to the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics upholding the high standards Marylanders expect from legislators in the coming weeks.”

No hearing date has been set in the case against Biggs.

A motions hearing is set for Aug. 16 to determine if the Kiple case should be heard in Anne Arundel County or refiled in Harford County.

Impallaria has filed a number of defamation suits in the last year, all against members of his own party.

On Thursday, a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge granted a motion to dismiss with prejudice a case against four members of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee. Judge Jan Alexander also ordered a summary judgment against Impallaria, citing legal deficiencies in the delegate’s case — he is representing himself — and saying a key piece of evidence likely violated state wiretap laws and would not be admissible in court.

Impallaria also filed a defamation case against Michael Geppi, a former 2018 Republican primary challenger who published mailings using a mugshot taken when Impallaria was arrested in 2016 for driving under the influence of alcohol in Ocean City.

Impallaria claims unspecified damages to his reputation and that Geppi defamed him by publishing a campaign mailer highlighting his brushes with the legal system, including driving under the influence, dozens of motor vehicle violations and case in which he was charged with attempting to run over his mother, brother and two others. The latter charges reduced to battery, and Impallaria received three years probation in that incident.

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