SRB: Votes had nothing to do with my husband's job
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake addressed questions at a morning press conference about the more than $900,000 in deals that she approved with Johns Hopkins since her husband began working in a division of the health system in mid-December.
"Not one single item that was approved by the Board of Estimates had anything to do with my husband's employment," Rawlings-Blake, reading from a statement, said in response to a story by The Sun. She noted that the university and the health system are the state's two largest private employers.
Under the city's ethics code, "a public servant may not participate in and must disqualify himself or herself from any matter if" it involves a "business entity in which… a disqualifying relative is a partner, officer, director, trustee, employee, or agent."
Kent Blake, the mayor's husband of 11 years, works for Hopkins Community Physicians, a division of the Johns Hopkins Health System.
Rawlings-Blake said she asked City Solicitor George Nilson to look into the matter "out of an abundance of caution." She said that Nilson has found no ethical issues in the votes that she has made.
Nilson told The Sun on Tuesday that while it appears acceptable for Rawlings-Blake to participate in decisions involving the university, it is less clear from an ethical standpoint whether she should be voting on issues involving the medical system.
"A lawyerly, narrow view of things could reach a conclusion that she is free to vote on matters [involving divisions of the health system other than Johns Hopkins Community Physicians] because it's clear that her husband is employed by a separate legal entity," Nilson said.
"But a more expansive view that would be more restrictive of her participation would say that the Hopkins medical institutions could be looked at as one entity," he said.
Nilson said he had not yet briefed the mayor on his findings.
"I'm going to lay out the two choices to her, and I think I know what she will prefer," he said. He said Rawlings-Blake has a "strong ethical compass."
When asked if she would continue voting on issues related to the health system, Rawlings-Blake said: "In the future, I will talk about it after I am fully briefed."