SEABROOK – State Del. Tawanna P. Gaines (D-22) announced her resignation from her post in the Maryland State House after federal officials charged her with wire fraud.
Gaines, 67, served as a delegate since 2001 and was the vice-chair of the House Appropriations Committee. She worked closely on the committee with three other Prince George’s County delegates, Benjamin Barnes, Michael A. Jackson, Susie Proctor and Geraldine Valentino-Smith. Gaines was also chair of the Appropriations Committee Capital Budget Subcommittee and was recently added to the Capital Budget Committee.
Her resignation comes after the FBI announced on Oct. 7 that Gaines and her campaign committee, called “Friends of Tawanna P. Gaines,” would help her raise money for her election campaigns. According to federal officials, while it was a regulated state election campaign with a designated bank account, Gaines controlled a separate PayPal account under the campaign’s name that accepted electronic donations. Federal officials say PayPal donations were not disclosed in her state campaign finance filings.
The United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur and Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office presented the indictment.
“The criminal information alleges that from at least January 2015 through April 2018, Gaines defrauded the campaign and its contributors of more than $22,000,” according to the indictment. “Specifically, the information alleges that Gaines solicited campaign contributions representing that the funds would be used to facilitate her reelection and maintain her leadership positions within the Maryland General Assembly.”
Gaines sent her resignation letter to House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) on Oct. 4, days before the announcement of the indictment. Gaines has not made any public statements at this time to the wire fraud charge.
“After much thought and consideration, I have decided to submit my immediate resignation to the Maryland House of Delegates as of Oct. 4th, 2019,” Gains wrote in her resignation letter.
In a statement released on Oct. 7, Jones accepted Gaines’ resignation and tasked with replacing her in all the committees that Gaines was a part of.
“As elected officials, we have an obligation to uphold the public trust, both in office and in our campaigns,” Jones said. “We cannot sacrifice that trust for personal gain for ourselves or our family members. I wish Delegate Gaines the best during this challenging time.”
Gaines was the first African-American elected to the Berwyn Town Council and was the first female mayor of the town.
Under state law, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will pick Gaines’ replacement following a recommendation from the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee (PGCDCC). The filing deadline for candidates interested in filling the vacancy is Oct. 24 with a public hearing scheduled for Oct. 29 at the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission Parks and Recreation Administration Building in Riverdale. The seat must be filled within 30 days of her resignation.
If convicted, Gaines could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. Her arraignment takes place on Oct. 17 before U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Greenbelt.