Some 125 individuals and groups contributed more than $12,000 worth of baby merchandise, gift cards and cash to an online baby registry set up by Mayor Brandon Scott and his fiancée Hana Pugh for their newborn son.
Among the contributors to the Charm Jamie Scott Registry – the baby was born on December 26 – were two dozen members of the mayor’s senior staff, who collectively contributed $2,000 in goods and gift cards.
Among them were Chief Administrative Officer Faith Leach (a $279.99 travel crib), Deputy Mayors Letitia Dzirasa and Justin Williams (socks, books and an infant Orioles jersey), Fire Chief James Wallace (baby swaddle), Deputy Administrative Officer Simone Johnson (cash and snowsuits worth $160), Planning Director Chris Ryer (onesies) and City Solicitor Ebony Thompson (a $100 gift card).
A monitoring camera, baby carrier and other items were donated by local politicians, including state senators Cory McCray (D, 45th), Antonio Hayes (D, 40th) and Arthur Ellis (D, 28th) as well as 7th District Councilman James Torrence.
But fully a quarter of the people who sent presents and cash through the Babylist.com portal were identified only by their first names or nicknames, such as Suki, Chapel, Weasel, Garfield, Kelly and Aunt Fuff.
Without last names, addresses or other identification submitted by the mayor’s office, it is impossible to determine if any gifts came from “controlled donors,” or people doing business with the city,
Section 7-23 of the city ethics law requires elected officials to disclose by the end of each January any gift with a value of $20 or more, especially from a controlled donor or lobbyist.
Such information should include “the identity of the person from whom the gift was received.”
The donor list submitted to the Ethics Board by Mayor Scott does not identify any gift giver other than their name. It covers the period of September through December 31, 2023.
Scott, who currently earns $209,000 a year, has not responded to several requests by The Brew for more information about the contributors.
For example, a $550 Doona infant car seat/stroller is listed as coming from “Sheila Dixon,” with an identical car seat/stroller purchase made by “Canton Against Crime.”
Former Mayor Sheila Dixon, who is running against Scott in the 2024 primary, did not buy a stroller off of the baby registry, spokeswoman Martha McKenna said today
Meanwhile, the individuals behind “Canton Against Crime” are unknown.
More than 40 baby gifts were attributed to Hana Pugh. She did not respond to questions about whether she paid for these items or instead used the gift cards and cash donated by the public.
Bypassing the Ethics Board
The baby registry set up by Scott and Pugh became controversial after The Brew reported that the online solicitation had never been disclosed or approved by the Ethics Board.
City law requires a “gift solicitation waiver” to be submitted to the ethics panel and the Board of Estimates before an elected official can canvass the public for anything other than a sanctioned government cause.
Scott did not seek a waiver before he and Pugh established their wish list for hundreds of gifts on Babylist.com.
Babylist allows clients to set up a private registry, which limits access to family and friends, or a public registry, which is accessible to the general public.
Scott and Pugh opted for the public option, which allowed The Brew to purchase online, as a test, a small gift for the couple a day after their son was born.
The transaction contradicted a written statement from the mayor’s spokesman that “this is a private registry for family and friends” and raised the possibility that controlled donors could funnel gifts or cash through the registry.
On December 29, Ethics Board Chairman Stephan Fogleman confirmed that the board had not been informed of the baby registry and had not approved a waiver request.
On the same day, the baby registry was turned to private mode.
Asked about the propriety of fundraising gifts and cash online, Fogleman said, “At this early point, it would be premature for the board to determine if an ethics violation has occurred.”
On January 10, the board did not take up the registry question – nor discuss a potential ethics violation – during the public portion of their meeting.
The disclosure of $12,565.65 in gifts and cash to Scott and Pugh was presented as a “supplement” to Scott’s annual filing.
The Ethics Board’s digital platform is currently unable to accommodate the download of these files by the public.
As a result, The Brew and others are required by law to make a written request for the supplements, which must include the inspecting person’s name, address, telephone number and organization represented.
Asked why the Ethics Board doesn’t require similar disclosure in the case of the baby registry, staff director J. Christoph Amberger said, “Upon review, the board may determine if supplemental information is required at its next meeting” on February 14.