The Maryland House of Delegates voted unanimously on March 27 to reprimand Baltimore County District 10 Del. Jay Jalisi based on a findings from a legislative ethics committee’s report. It concluded that he engaged in an “ongoing pattern of unrepentant workplace bullying and has been verbally and emotionally abusive to individuals who worked for him, other members’ legislative aides, other Maryland General Assembly employees, and other individuals.”
Delegates acted on the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, which issued a scathing 17-page report on March 25. Committee members had launched an investigation shortly after House Speaker Michael Busch referred multiple complaints and allegations to them on Feb. 5. In reaching its conclusions, the committee conducted 38 interviews of current and former staff and volunteers for Jalisi and other members of the General Assembly, and also considered 18 sworn affidavits, heard sworn testimony from 17 witnesses, and reviewed emails and correspondence from Jalisi. The committee’s findings revealed evidence of conduct that was “intimidating, degrading, disrespectful and belligerent.” Jalisi denies the accounts.
According to the report, Busch, other legislative leaders and the committee had counseled Jalisi about his behavior on several occasions. Last August, Busch requested that Jalisi take an anger management and workplace civility program, and advised that if he failed to do so, the matter would be referred to the ethics committee and he would not be permitted to have paid staff, the report stated.
Jalisi said in a statement to the Northwest Voice that he has not decided if he will participate in the counseling.
According to Jalisi, the reprimand was based on “flimsy, factually murky, politically driven report,” and the report is about his style and not substance.
“In the 5 years I have been in elected office, there have been no allegations against me of harassment, financial illegalities or improprieties, or of using my position for personal gain,” Jalisi said in a statement. “Instead, a judgment was made by the Annapolis establishment against the way I am received in workplace conversations, which at its core is a matter of cultural disconnect.”
The report says otherwise. According to the report, legislators received testimony that Jalisi:
- instructed an aide to work approximately 100 hours of overtime, but refused to approve the timesheets for those hours.
- retaliated against a staff person who participated in the ethics committee’s review of the allegations. Staff testified that Jalisi belittled them and called the environment “toxic.”
- improperly required staff to sign nondisclosure agreements to prohibit them from working with another legislators. (HR said it was not enforceable.)
- called an aide “stupid” and asked the individual to repeat, “I am incompetent. I am incompetent.”
Jalisi is not the first legislator to be disciplined for bad behavior. Last month, the House unanimously to censure Del. Mary Ann Lisanti of Harford County after reports she used the n-word to describe a legislative district in Prince George’s County. She was removed as chair of two subcommittees of the House Economic Matters Committee and told to undergo sensitivity training. A censure is considered a more serious punishment.
The report is available at mgaleg.maryland.gov/pubs/committee/2019-ethics-report-delegate-jay-jalisi.pdf