In Difficult Time, ‘I Stand with Pride’

I am responding to the JT’s March 10 article “Morhaim Reprimanded for Ethics Issue” to provide further information.

There are two standards in Maryland ethics law that could apply to my circumstance. The first deals with proper disclosure, and the second concerns actions that could lead to gain for a specific entity or person. I did not violate either of these.

The Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics in its report found that I made disclosures as required by the General Assembly’s ethics rules: “Delegate Morhaim properly disclosed his earned income from Doctors Orders through the consulting firm Whitebridge Associates on his July 23, 2015 Form F and financial disclosure statement filed on April 1, 2016, and that he was not required to report the name of the firm’s client consistent with ethical standards.”

This erroneous story originated with a Washington Post article from July 2016. However the Post made the following correction on Oct. 14, 2016, recognizing that I followed disclosure rules: “Correction: Earlier versions of this article included incomplete information about what Maryland Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) reported on financial disclosure forms.”

Imagine if the Post had factually reported: “Maryland delegate properly completes disclosure forms.” But that wouldn’t have been a story and would not have stirred controversy.

Other media picked up the erroneous report, and the damage to my reputation was underway.

The JT article does note that I “did not break the law.” Here’s the committee’s report: “After a thorough review of the available evidence and Delegate Morhaim’s written and oral statements to the joint committee, the joint committee finds that there is not sufficient evidence to support a finding that Delegate Morhaim intentionally used his public position as delegate to specifically obtain private gain for himself or his employer, and therefore did not violate 5-506(a) of the General Provisions Article.”

So what exactly did I do wrong? The Joint Committee’s report finds that I violated neither the disclosure statute nor the private gain provisions of the law.

Instead, the Joint Committee found that my actions “were contrary to the principles of the Maryland Public Ethics Law in accordance with the intent of the law.” In other words, I did not violate the letter of the law, but I might have violated the “intent” of the law. This is a wholly new standard, never before applied.

In the current political climate, the committee felt it had to take action, and a reprimand, however unpleasant for me, is its least punitive action. In order to bring this matter to a close, I accepted the committee’s decision despite reservations.

I do not apologize for doing medical consulting for a cannabis applicant after the enabling legislation was passed in 2015 nor for continuing to advocate for a functioning medical cannabis program.

What I do apologize for is being a too enthusiastic supporter of the goal of bringing medical cannabis to Marylanders in a safe and responsible way. I was outspoken at times when I should not have been, and I regret that mistake.

That’s why, when this whole episode began in August 2016, I immediately withdrew from any legislative activities concerning medical cannabis.

It’s not easy to be unfairly vilified by the press, but I stand with pride on my 23-year record in the General Assembly, working hard on issues of health, environment, small business, government efficiency and many issues of importance to the district and our Jewish community.

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