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Editorial Advisory Board: And another one bites the dust

Del. Cheryl Glenn of Baltimore city abruptly resigned from the state legislature on Dec. 18. The reason for her resignation became clear on Dec. 23, when U.S. Attorney Robert Hur announced that Glenn had been charged with honest services wire fraud and bribery. It appears Glenn was saddled with debt and was facing foreclosure on her home, which led, allegedly, to her soliciting bribes in exchange for her votes on legislation concerning medical cannabis and liquor licenses. Another ho-hum day for Baltimore city political leaders! But what is really striking is the comment by Prince George’s County Del. Darryl Barnes, who, after noting that the news of his friend and colleague’s charges “hit (him) like a ton of bricks,” lamented that the case pointed to the need to increase the pay for lawmakers. Barnes noted that the current pay for lawmakers, $50,330 annually, is insufficient and may be the impetus for lawmakers who accept bribes.

Barnes’ comment is offensive. One can understand, perhaps, his desire not to speak ill of a friend and colleague; however, it is completely ludicrous for him to suggest low pay as an excuse for accepting bribes. First, there is no excuse for a lawmaker to accept bribes in exchange for a vote. And, second, the excuse is so pathetic. While the annual salary of $50,330 for lawmakers is less than the median household income in Maryland – the median household income in the state stands at $78,916, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey — it’s worth noting that the annual salary for the lawmakers represents pay for four months of work! In other words, state senators and delegates are paid $12,582 per month. That’s roughly $3,145 per week. Claiming that low pay may induce one to take bribes is a little like the defendant who kills his parents arguing for pity at sentencing because he’s an orphan.

The real problem with the delegate’s comment is it reflects an acceptance of or an excuse for dishonesty among political leaders. It’s one big shrug. Baltimore city alone has been recently devastated by corruption. The charges against Glenn come roughly a month after former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh pleaded guilty to four federal counts of conspiracy and tax evasion. Her predecessor Sheila Dixon pleaded guilty to misappropriation of gift cards. Dixon’s conviction came before former state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks pleaded guilty in 2018 to fraud charges after taking bribes from an undercover FBI informant. The toxic malaise among the electorate that “all politicians are crooked” keeps the door wide open to crooked behavior.

Citizens must raise their expectations of what is acceptable from their representatives, demand integrity and honesty and hold them accountable at the polls.

Editorial Advisory Board member Ericka N. King did not take part in this editorial.

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS

James B. Astrachan, Chair

James K. Archibald

Arthur F. Fergenson

Nancy Forster

Susan Francis

Michael Hayes

James Haynes

Ericka N. King

Stephen Z. Meehan

C. William Michaels

Angela W. Russell

Debra G. Schubert

H. Mark Stichel

Michael P. Van Alstine

Vanessa Vescio

The Daily Record Editorial Advisory Board is composed of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through their ongoing exchange of views, members of the board attempt to develop consensus on issues of importance to the bench, bar and public. When their minds meet, unsigned opinions will result. When they differ, or if a conflict exists, majority views and the names of members who do not participate will appear. Members of the community are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns about opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.

 

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