Del. Shaneka Henson has been urged by an ethics panel to apologize for discussing state funding for a nonprofit organization that paid her to be its legal adviser.

The General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics issued its report about the Anne Arundel County Democrat on Wednesday, two days after the legislature concluded its annual 90-day session.

Following a yearlong investigation, the ethics committee found that a group called Kingdom Kare, which had applied to the General Assembly for funding, had paid Henson’s law firm for services and listed her as its legal representative. Henson did not recuse herself from legislative meetings where the funding was discussed and never disclosed her relationship with the group, the ethics committee found.

Kingdom Kare is affiliated with Kingdom Celebration Center, a church in Gambrills. Kingdom Kare had applied for funding known as a legislative bond initiative for a Veterans Resource Support Center in both 2022 and 2023, according to the ethics report.

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The ethics committee cited documentation that Kingdom Kare paid a total of $10,150 to the law firm that Henson owns, the Johnson Legal Group, for legal services in 2022 and 2023 and listed her as “grantee legal representative.”

Kingdom Kare presented its request before a meeting of Anne Arundel delegates in 2023, and Henson did not recuse herself from the discussion or disclose her business relationship, the ethics committee wrote.

Shortly after, House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, her chief of staff and ethics counsel met with Henson and she denied having been paid by Kingdom Kare, the ethics committee wrote.

In a five-page letter to Henson, the ethics committee’s co-chair wrote: “Despite having an active contract to serve as general counsel and legal counsel for Kingdom Kare’s Veterans Resource Center at the time of this meeting, when asked if you knew why Kingdom Kare listed you as their legal representative, you replied that you were not their legal representative and did not know why they listed you as such.”

Jones, at that time, moved Henson from the Appropriations Committee, which handles the state budget and funding requests, to another committee.

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A few weeks later, Henson filed paperwork noting that she provided legal services to Kingdom Kare but said it was unrelated to state funds.

In a statement posted to her campaign website on Wednesday, Henson wrote that she was unaware that she was listed as the legal counsel for Kingdom Kare. She also said that she didn’t propose the funding for Kingdom Kare; that was handled by another state delegate.

Henson said she supports the work of organizations like Kingdom Kare and said she’s been a member of the Kingdom Celebration Center for 13 years, before she got into politics.

“I extend my sincere apologies for any appearance of conflict related to my relationship with Kingdom Kare, Inc. and the Veterans Resource Center,” Henson wrote.

The ethics committee found that Henson had “at a minimum” an appearance of a conflict of interest related to Kingdom Kare. The ethics committee found that it was “more likely than not” that Henson would have taken action on the Kingdom Kare funding request if the speaker had not met with her.

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The ethics committee also found that Henson inappropriately used her delegate title in an advertisement for her law firm that was published in an Annapolis Juneteenth celebration promotional booklet in 2021.

The ethics committee urged Henson to apologize to lawmakers involved in the budget process and some who represent Anne Arundel County. The committee also recommended that Henson not be assigned to the Appropriations Committee in the future.

General Assembly ethics investigations that don’t result in a recommendation for formal discipline — such as expulsion from the legislature or a public censure vote — are generally kept confidential. But given that Henson made “false responses to direct questions” from the speaker, the ethics committee voted to make its findings public “in order to uphold the integrity of the ethics investigation process.”

Pamela Wood covers Maryland politics and government. She previously reported for The Baltimore Sun, The Capital and other Maryland newspapers. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, she lives in northern Anne Arundel County.

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