City officials today were reviewing the employment status of Dominic J. "Crowbar" Carozza, a longtime local crime figure and Department of Public Works superintendent charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of a man on the East Baltimore waterfront last June.
"We are reviewing the matter to determine what administrative action to take," said James Kapplin, department spokesman.
He said department director George G. Balog and Jay S. Thorpe, a bureau chief under whose direction Carozza worked, were meeting to reach a decision, possibly today.
Kapplin said the two actions being studied are "suspension or a different assignment that would be appropriate in light of these charges."
If a new assignment, or job title, would be given to Carozza, it would not be on the supervisory level, Kapplin said.
Carozza, 58, and two other men are in City Jail under no bail charged with the June 22 killing of Russell Charles Baker, 42. Baker's bullet-riddled body was found in the middle of the 800 block of Lancaster St., a section of commercial yards and warehouses on the eastern edge of the Inner Harbor.
Carozza, a resident of the city's Little Italy community, also faces federal charges of being a felon in possession of ammunition and threatening to do bodily harm to a 36-year-old woman who is believed to be the pivotal witness in both the state and federal cases.
Although jailed on the murder charge since Sept. 19, Carozza has remained on the municipal payroll collecting his $35,900 annual salary.
Kapplin said that under Civil Service regulations Carozza could appeal any decision by Balog. He added that, if convicted, Carozza "could be terminated."
Carozza has a storied criminal history going back three decades. He has survived a car bombing that claimed his right leg and numerous allegations and convictions involving violent shootings, stabbings and federal firearms charges.
Asked how Carozza could be on the public payroll and serve in a supervisory capacity, Kapplin said: "He served his time."
Carozza was a lifelong friend of Marco "Buddy" Palughi, the late public works chief of special services and jack-of-all-trades bureaucrat who got Carozza hired with the department. According to one source, Carozza and Palughi were boyhood friends on the streets of Little Italy and remained close until Palughi's death in 1986.
Frank Babusci, a former high-ranking public works chief who fell out of grace during Kurt L. Schmoke's first year as mayor and was transferred to a less prestigious city job before leaving government service, recalled Carozza's first jobs.
"When he came on around the mid-'70s," Babusci recalled, "he first worked with crews on footways [sidewalks] and repairing tree roots. He took a test for a superintendent's position in '78 and passed it. He was a good worker."
Besides Carozza, the others charged in Baker's killing are Robert Vizzini, 26, of the 200 block of Dorell Road in Essex, and John Long, 40, of the 1300 block of McHenry St.
Carozza, of the 400 block of Albemarle St., lost his right leg in a car-bomb explosion in 1971. The bombing of his Cadillac occurred outside Carozza's then-residence in the 4700 block of Shamrock Ave. Three Carozza associates also were wounded in the blast.
A plumbers union figure was charged with the bombing but was acquitted after Carozza refused to testify.
According to a knowledgeable source, the bombing followed by several days a meeting between Carozza and a Philadelphia organized-crime figure in a Perring Parkway cocktail lounge. Carozza was said to have cursed the gangster and stormed out of the establishment.
In the 1960s, Carozza was accused of a double murder and a separate killing, but he was acquitted or charges were dropped. In a separate case, he spent six years in prison for the serious wounding of an after-hours club doorman in 1961.
He also was linked by prosecutors during the 1960s and 1970s with Local 16 of the Ironworkers Union, AFL-CIO, although his role was never clearly defined. It was in the early part of those days that he earned his street nickname of "Crowbar."