City wants to make it easier to fire the top cop
Del. Curt Anderson, a Baltimore Democrat and chairman of the city delegation, has proposed legislation establishing that the city police commissioner serves “at the pleasure of the mayor.” His bill, introduced at the request of Baltimore officials, would amend an unusual state law that spells out specific conditions that must be met before the mayor can fire the police commissioner.
That language – unique in the state – contributed to a years-long lawsuit by former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark, who said he was illegally fired in 2004 by then-Mayor Martin O’Malley. Siding with Clark, the Court of Appeals ruled last March that Baltimore mayors may fire commissioners only under certain circumstances, including official misconduct, inefficiency and incompetence.
O'Malley, now the governor, fired Clark when allegations surfaced that Clark and his fiancee had a domestic dispute. Criminal allegations were later determined to be unfounded. Last July, a Baltimore Circuit Court judge threw out Clark’s $60 million wrongful termination lawsuit, saying he was only entitled to the severance package the city had already given him.
But the lawsuit prompted Baltimore officials to mount a campaign to get the law changed. Reacting to the Court of Appeals ruling, City Solicitor George Nilson said the law has “tied our hands.”
Anderson said his proposal simply “brings Baltimore in line with everyone else.” “No county executive in Maryland does not have this power already,” Anderson said. If General Assembly approves the bill, it would take effect June. 1.
UPDATE: Clark’s attorney, A. Dwight Pettit, says the former commish's case is still active. Pettit argues that the judge ignored the Court of Appeals decision and says the case is now awaiting a hearing date at the Court of Special Appeals.
Here’s what HB 92 proposes:
(New language is in caps and text to be deleted is in brackets.) The Police Commissioner is subject to removal [by] AT THE PLEASURE OF the Mayor [for official misconduct, malfeasance, inefficiency or incompetency, including prolonged illness, in the manner provided by law in the case of civil officers], AS PROVIDED IN SECTION 6(C) OF ARTICLE IV OF THE CHARTER OF BALTIMORE CITY.