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Maryland lawmaker-doctor won’t face ethics violation for tuning into legislative meetings from the operating room

Baltimore Sun logoBaltimore Sun 11/19/2021 Pamela Wood, Baltimore Sun

A Maryland lawmaker who is also a doctor will not face ethics sanctions for joining public video meetings from the operating room.

The General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics met Monday to discuss a complaint filed against Del. Terri Hill, who acknowledged logging into Zoom for legislative meetings twice earlier this year while at work as a surgeon.

“The Ethics Committee was not presented with evidence that Delegate Hill engaged in conduct that violates the standards of legislative ethics,” committee co-chairs Sen. George Edwards and Del. Sandy Bartlett wrote in a letter dated Wednesday that was sent to Dr. Alan Robin, who filed a complaint about Hill.

The letter, which Robin provided to The Baltimore Sun, also noted: “The Ethics Committee advises that the State Board of Physicians is responsible for reviewing allegations that a physician violated State law regarding the practice of medicine.”

Hill declined to comment.

Hill, a board-certified plastic surgeon, previously agreed to a reprimand and a $15,000 fine from the Maryland Board of Physicians. She remains a licensed physician.

Robin, a retired ophthalmologist from Towson, complained to both the physicians board and the ethics committee, alleging that Hill was not properly fulfilling her duties as a surgeon or a lawmaker when she attempted to do both jobs at the same time. He filed his complaints after The Baltimore Sun reported on Hill’s actions.

The Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics operates confidentially and members do not confirm or comment on complaints or deliberations. The only time members speak publicly about the committee’s work is when they recommend discipline for a lawmaker. The committee’s meeting on Monday, described publicly as a “work session,” was held mostly in closed session.

Hill had initially defended her decision to join video meetings while at work as a doctor, saying her patients knew about it and she wasn’t putting them in any danger.

A Board of Physicians investigation found that one patient did not know Hill tuned into a legislative meeting, while the other patient was told about 10 minutes before surgery, but no consent paperwork was on file. Both legislative meetings where she appeared on camera from the operating room were streamed on the General Assembly’s website and YouTube channels.

Hill, a Democrat representing parts of Howard and Baltimore counties, issued a statement last month about her agreement with the Board of Physicians: “As a physician and a professional, I always look for ways to improve my practice. Sometimes this includes accepting constructive criticism from others. I accept the Board’s decision that I could have done better.”

Maryland’s state delegates and lawmakers are paid $50,330 per year for what is officially a part-time job. While some lawmakers focus their full attention on politics, most have other jobs.

During the 2021 General Assembly session, much of the work of lawmaking was done online, with bill hearings and committee votes conducted over Zoom and streamed online. Lawmakers joined meetings from various locations, including their homes, their Annapolis offices, Annapolis-area hotel rooms and, sometimes, vehicles.

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