Maryland AG Becomes First to Hide Plea for Bloomberg Money from Public
On Monday afternoon, May 6, 2019, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh filed an Answer in response to an open records lawsuit by Government Accountability & Oversight, P.C., a suit that seeks Frosh’s application to Michael Bloomberg’s “Center for State Impacts” for a privately hired prosecutor to “advanc[e] progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions.”
That Center hired and is paying an attorney $125,000 plus benefits to serve as a “Pro Bono [sic] Special Counsel” in Frosh’s office in pursuit of issues of importance to Bloomberg and his Center. The group was organized for this purpose after the election of Donald Trump dealt the global warming agenda a setback.
As GAO details in its complaint, Frosh actually set the attorney’s six-figure salary before then appointing him a “pro bono” lawyer.
This is problematic: as affirmed in 2015 in State vs. Westray, under Maryland law “’Pro bono,’ of course, means that not only does the client not need to pay, but also the attorney represents the client without compensation.”
GAO has subsequently learned that Frosh first appointed the lawyer on January 3, 2018, but without citing to any authority under Maryland law, which apparently does not exist. Then in another letter dated two weeks later — though apparently back-dated, as it was emailed to the lawyer over two months later — Frosh then appointed him citing to the inapplicable “pro bono” provision.
Maryland OAG’s defiance represents a landmark refusal to provide a document that, while surely politically embarrassing and possibly offering legal or ethical peril, is not privileged.
That makes Frosh’s Office the only attorney general’s office to claim, brazenly, that whatever it promised to Bloomberg’s group, it is properly hidden from the public’s view.
Not neighboring Virginia or the District of Columbia or Virginia, not Illinois, New York, Vermont, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington state…
Only Brian Frosh.
Interestingly, last week Frosh’s Office released just under 100 pages of correspondence about this scheme from the GMail account he uses to communicate with Bloomberg’s group, and other Bloomberg consultants. These show that Brian Frosh was in fact the state attorney general driving this scheme, for Bloomberg’s group, of placing privately funded lawyers in OAGs.
Frosh gave the pitch in a conference call to the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA) members, and served as the “sponsor” in the National Association of Attorneys General. Other emails show Bloomberg’s group praising Frosh’s leadership role in the scheme.
This reality of Frosh’s use of a private account for this purpose — GAO has also learned it is the practice of the Bloomberg group to use AG and OAG officials’ non-official accounts — slipped through in an earlier public records production. That contained an email the AG had forwarded to a colleague, leading to the request that produced these records (Maryland also withheld some unstated number of emails from Frosh’s GMail account as privileged).
Now, Brian Frosh is the one AG who wants to keep whatever it is he promised Bloomberg’s operation free from public scrutiny. The public deserves to know what Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh is trying to hide.
Release re: suit vs. Maryland Office o the Attorney General https://climatelitigationwatch.org/gao-complaint-against-maryland-ag-frosh/
Complaint w appendices https://climatelitigationwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/2019-02-22-Complaint-with-Appendices.pdf
Video: Law Enforcement For Rent In Maryland https://climatelitigationwatch.org/video-law-enforcement-for-rent-in-maryland/