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Justice

Maryland delegate charged with theft of state funds for ‘district office’ outside his district

Del. Richard K. Impallaria (R-Harford). Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

A Maryland lawmaker has been charged by state prosecutors with multiple counts of misconduct in office, theft and embezzlement related to rental payments for a river cottage in Baltimore County.

Del. Rick Impallaria, a Republican who represents parts of Baltimore and Harford counties and who has served in Annapolis for two decades, appeared to lose a bid for re-election last week; votes are still being counted.

On Wednesday, Maryland State Prosecutor Charlton T. Howard III filed a criminal information against Impallaria in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

According to the prosecutor’s office, Impallaria paid his landlord with rental payments from the General Assembly for a “district office” that was actually outside of his district — and next door to a cottage Impallaria rented for personal use from the same landlord.

The General Assembly paid, on average, double the amount of rent for Impallaria’s “district office” than any other tenant in the community along Middle River. The same month the General Assembly began paying rent on the “district office,” and after ten years of monthly rent payments, Impallaria stopped paying rent on the neighboring personal cottage, which he maintained.

The buildings, at various times, were in either the state’s 6th or 7th legislative district. After 2012 redistricting, they were located in the 6th District, while Impallaria represented the 7th.

Between July 2012 through and through May 31 of this year, the state of Maryland paid $92,800 in rent for the “district office.”

During that same time period, Impallaria paid nothing in rent for his neighboring cottage, prosecutors said.

Each member of the General Assembly is allowed to claim a district office expense, and the annual budget is administered by the Department of Legislative Services. Members can use the annual allowance to maintain a district office and related operating expenses, but cannot use the allowance for any non-legislative purpose, including campaign or personal expenses.

Lawmakers are not allowed to pay themselves as landlords of a district office property and cannot receive a rent payment for space in their private residence used as an office.

The lease for the district office property was witnessed by Impallaria’s legislative aide, whose family owned the cottages.

The office of House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) issued a brief statement in response to the charges on Wednesday:

“We can’t comment in an ongoing case, but Speaker Jones expects every member of the House of Delegates to uphold the law and be honest stewards of taxpayer dollars. The misuse of state funds is an issue we take seriously.”

The General Assembly paid $700 per month for the office space, double the rent charged to other tenants on the landlord’s property.

Rent ledges from the landlord indicated that the monthly payments received from the General Assembly were divide equally between the accounts for the “district office” and Impallaria’s personal cottage.

The office was searched in September 2021, according to prosecutors, and several of Impallaria’s personal items — bedroom furniture, folding beds, pellet rifles, campaign material, skis and clothing — were found.

Prosecutors also say in the court filings that Impallaria was reimbursed by the state for $2,405.30 in office furniture that was never actually purchased after filing a false invoice.

The delegate subsequently used the $2,405.30 to pay for fundraising letters on behalf of his campaign entity, Friends of Rick Impallaria, prosecutors said.

No one returned a voicemail left for Impallaria at a phone number on file with the State Board of Elections on Wednesday afternoon. His attorney, Steve Silverman, told other news organizations that Impallaria has been aware of the allegations and denies wrongdoing.

One of Impallaria’s district mates, Del. Kathy Szeliga (R), called on him to resign Wednesday.

“In light of today’s very serious charges, … he should resign immediately. These are very grim charges including conniving a scheme to pay almost $100,000 for his own rent and political mail using taxpayer dollars, implicating his staff to participate in his bad deeds, and a complete dereliction and perversion of office,” said Szeliga, who has represented District 7 alongside Impallaria for 12 years.

In April 2019, Impallaria’s former chief of staff, Tyler Walch, was convicted for violating Maryland election laws related to robocalls intended to draw votes in the 2018 Republican primary election away from Szeliga.

The call, which failed to disclose who paid for and who authorized the message, was made to 9,000 Baltimore and Harford County residents the day before the election. At the time, Impallaria and Szeliga were among 13 Republican candidates in a crowded race to represent District 7.

An initial appearance for Impallaria is scheduled in Anne Arundel Circuit Court for Aug. 15.

The three charges of misconduct in office carry a potential penalty of “anything not cruel and unusual,” according to state law.

Impallaria is also charged with committing a theft scheme between $25,000 and $100,000, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Two counts of embezzlement, as well as one charge of theft between $1,500 and $25,000, carry a maximum sentence of 5 years.

This story was updated throughout the day Wednesday.