Former Del. Cheryl D. Glenn (D), a Baltimore City lawmaker who held numerous leadership posts until her abrupt resignation last week, repeatedly used her office to push legislation sought by a medical marijuana firm in exchange for cash, federal prosecutors alleged on Monday.
A Justice Department investigation placed Glenn in meetings with an unidentified individual who was an “associate” of hers and of unidentified out-of-state firm that wanted a license to grow and process marijuana here.
In Glenn, until last week the head of the city’s House delegation who also served as chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus, the firm found a willing partner, the indictment alleges.
A backer of legislation legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, Glenn repeatedly undertook official actions — introducing legislation, casting votes and lobbying colleagues in the General Assembly, among others — to help the firm, according to the government.
In exchange, she accepted $33,750 in bribes over a two-year period, prosecutors said. The alleged bribes were always delivered in cash, during surreptitious meetings in restaurants and parking lots, federal authorities maintained, to make them more difficult to trace.
In some cases, prosecutors alleged, Glenn falsely claimed that the payments were “short,” in an effort to squeeze the firm even more.
If convicted on the wire fraud charge, Glenn faces 20 years in prison, Robert K. Hur, the U.S. attorney for Maryland, told reporters in Baltimore Monday. If convicted of bribery, she could be sentenced to five years behind bars.
“We expect our elected officials to put the interests of the public above their own,” Hur said. “We do not expect them to sell their office to the highest bidder.”
Glenn’s attorney, William C. Brennan Jr., declined to comment on the indictments. “Any comments will be made in court,” he wrote in an email.
According to prosecutors, Glenn:
- voted for legislation that increased the number of licenses to grow and process marijuana that were available to an out-of-state company;
- promised to lead an effort to change the law so that Maryland-based firms would have an advantage in obtaining a medical marijuana license;
- helped the owner of an opioid maintenance therapy clinic by introducing legislation that decreased the amount experience required to be a medical director at such a facility, from three years to two; and
- introduced legislation to create a liquor license in her district, the 45th, at the behest of the “associate” who served as a go-between with the marijuana firm.
FBI agents working on the Glenn case obtained access to face-to-face conversations she had with “Associate 1” and text messages the two exchanged, though they offered no details.
Early in their conversations, Glenn said she needed $3,000 to pay off a $2,716 property tax bill on her home. Later, she said an additional $20,000 payment “would get me out of the hole.”
Glenn repeatedly boasted to the associate that her success in delivering on the legislation requested by the unidentified firm was the result of her tenacity, her relationships and her ability to work with bill-drafters in the legislature.
“I got this shit done,” Glenn said at one point, according to the indictment. “It took a lot of work. … I fought my ass off for this.”
At one point Glenn described how she waited outside an unidentified state senator’s office on the last day of the 2018 legislative session. The lawmaker then took Glenn into the gathering, to which she had not been invited.
“Let me tell you something,” Glenn recalled, according to the government, “You let them know, and I’m serious… let them know… when I went in there, I sat right at the head of the table. I said how y’all doin’? If I had not gone into that meeting, they would not…they… they would have … we would have got the the new licenses, but those new licenses would have been given to people already on the list…”
In the summer of 2018, she told her associate that when one firm looking for medical marijuana action got “pissed off” because other applicants were able to obtain a license, Glenn had an explanation: “I said they know God and Cheryl Glenn.”
“I’ve stopped spending time with people if they’re not um, donating to… you know what I mean,” she said in another phone call, according to the indictment.
Hur declined to say how the Justice Department investigators got wind of Glenn’s alleged bribe-taking, how they gained access to her communications, or whether others players in the “scheme” will be charged in the future.
She remains free until her arraignment, scheduled for Jan. 22.
The Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee will recommend someone to fill the remaining portion of Glenn’s term, which runs until the end of 2022. Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) gets to make the appointment.
The central committee announced Monday evening that it would be accepting applications for the vacancy through Jan. 8 and would then publicly interview candidates on Jan. 13, beginning at 6 p.m., at the offices of Humanim, Inc., 1701 N. Gay Street in Baltimore, with a vote to follow.
‘This is a sad time’
Glenn’s colleagues responded with shock to the allegations contained in the U.S. Attorney’s indictment.
“OMFG,” said a lawmaker close to Glenn, who declined to comment further, or by name.
“This is a sad time,” said Sen. Cory V. McCray (D-Baltimore City), who represents the same East Baltimore district as Glenn. “With Delegate Glenn’s absence, the 45th District has lost a delegate, a union leader, and an advocate.”
Del. Darryl Barnes (D-Prince George’s), who succeeded Glenn as chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said he was shocked by the details that emerged in the indictment.
“What I’m reading is not what I saw,” Barnes said, echoing a sentiment voiced by others. “This has hit me like a ton of bricks, because Del. Glenn and I were close. I had no idea of these things happening. So I am shocked, I am saddened, and I’m frustrated by what’s going on.”
Glenn is the second state lawmaker in recent weeks who was expected to play a prominent role in the 2020 General Assembly session but has had to step aside after running afoul of the law.
In October, Del. Tawanna P. Gaines (D-Prince George’s) resigned her seat in the House of Delegates just before pleading guilty to campaign finance charges. Gaines was vice chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee and was about to take over as chairwoman of the Capital Budget Committee.
In that case, prosecutors alleged that Gaines and her campaign treasurer — her daughter — used campaign donations on fast food, hair styling, personal phone bills, a pool cover and rent for a separate business. In addition, they used an ATM card that was connected to the candidate’s account to withdraw funds in cash.
“I’m not condoning [Glenn’s alleged actions], no way,” Barnes said, “but I am saying we need to look at more equity pay for our members.”
“You just look across the board at what’s been happening,” he added. “It’s all centered around money. They’re unable to meet their day-to-day needs.”
Members of the House and Senate earn $50,330 a year. Barnes said he intends to raise the issue with House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County).
Work in the General Assembly is considered part-time, but Barnes said legislators work “24/7” serving their constituents. “It’s not just January until April.”