A state delegate from Baltimore County could have his state salary garnished to pay the back wages of a legislative aide he was barred from hiring because he had not completed required anger management classes.
An attorney for Brian Agandi, the former legislative aide, sought and was granted the order Tuesday against Del. Hasan “Jay” Jalisi, D-Baltimore County. The order is the latest is a series of troubles for Jalisi that date back to when he first entered the legislature in 2015.
“There was no excuse for Delegate Jalisi’s not paying Brian Agandi,” said H. Mark Stichel, an attorney at Astrachan Gunst Thomas, P.C. who represented Agandi.
The writ for garnishment was served today on the Office of the Comptroller and the Office of the Attorney General, according to Stichel.
Jalisi, who was not immediately available for comment, could appeal the decision and challenge the garnishment order.
Two weeks ago Jalisi was found to have violated the Maryland Wage Act when he failed to pay Agandi approximately $2,200 in salary. The delegate hired Agandi despite being prohibited from hiring staff by then Speaker Michael Busch after Jalisi failed to take anger management classes as ordered.
According to the lawsuit filed in June 2019, 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.
Agandi stated 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 sought a judgment of $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.
Jalisi, whose lawyer argued in court that the delegate was protected by legislative immunity, was not immediately available for comment.
Baltimore County District Court Judge Philip Tirabassi, in a ruling two weeks ago, rejected Jalisi’s defense and dismissed Agandi’s claims that the delegate misrepresented his ability to hire him despite being ordered not to hire staff.
The trial featured testimony from Alexandra Hughes, chief of staff to former House Speaker Michael Busch and current House Speaker Adrienne Jones. Hughes was called to authenticate emails to Jalisi and his attorney in which the delegate was ordered not to hire staff until completion of anger management courses.
The judge found that Jalisi violated state wage laws, which carries a potential penalty of treble damages. The judge awarded Agandi an initial $2,200 and doubled it and tacked on $130 in interest and about $15,000 in legal fees.
Under the garnishment order, Jalisi may have to forfeit up to 25% of his paycheck to cover the more than $19,000 in judgments. Delegates earn about $50,000 annually.
“This is a significant judgment,” said Stichel. “Employers have a duty to pay employees timely and Delegate Jalisi did not pay Brian Agandi. The significant judgment that the court entered, I think, shows the seriousness with which the courts take the Maryland Wage Payment Act. ”
The office of House Speaker Adrienne Jones declined to comment on the matter.
The second-term delegate has had a somewhat troubled history in the legislature that began before he was elected when opponents alleged he did not live in the district in which he was seeking election.
He was later given a retraining order in 2015 by his own teenage daughter, who alleged in court records that her father slapped her during an argument. He was ultimately stripped of his seat on the House Judiciary Committee and reassigned to the House Environment and Transportation Committee.
At the same time, Jalisi was engaging in the start of what a legislative ethics panel later described as a pattern of bullying and abusive behavior directed at his own legislative staff and others. The complaints, which at the time were private, became public when the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee issued a 16-page report in 2019 on his misbehavior and his failure to comply with an order to attend anger management classes as ordered.
That report accused Jalisi of fostering a toxic work environment. Jalisi said he was the victim of a political smear campaign by enemies he would not identify.
The General Assembly ultimately voted to reprimand Jalisi for his actions.
Earlier this year, Jalisi completed his anger management courses.