Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins said Friday that he will not ask Alderman Theresa DeGraff to resign as chairwoman of the City Council'spublic safety committee.
The Hopkins-appointed Police-Minority Community Relations Board called for DeGraff's resignation last week, citing comments she made that no Annapolis police officers were qualified to become deputy chief.
DeGraff maintains that her remarks referred to all members of thedepartment. However, she specifically cited Annapolis' black officers, and the Black Officers Association and other groups deemed the comments racist.
"She had an opinion, and she expressed it," Hopkins said. "I don't think she should be removed for having an opinion. That's like saying this is not a free country and you can't express an opinion.
"Of course," he added, "the board has its opinion, and I respect that. Terrie served four years on the public safety committee with me. She's very conscientious and hard-working. I regret that this has happened, but I don't think she should be punished for expressing an opinion."
DeGraff, R-Ward 7, said she would not step down. She had no further comment on the board's request, expressed in a letter to Hopkins and aldermen and signed by board Chairman Frank Brown.
She has refused to apologize for her remarks but has agreed to meet with her critics. She had planned to meet with Black Political Forum President Matthew Thomas yesterday.
She also said the public safety committee will meet with the Black Officers Association. The group requested a meeting to talk about a 1984 anti-discrimination court agreement the department has been operating under, among other issues. DeGraff said she wants Police Chief Harold Robbins to attend the meeting, because he knows more about the agreement than she does.
Hopkins proposed hiring a deputy chief a year ago and suggested he wanted to hire a minority to fill the position.
Capt. Norman Randall, the department's senior officer and the ranking black member, had been among Hopkins' top prospects for the deputy position.
DeGraff, who had opposed creating the position, made her remarks two weeks ago,after Hopkins chose Baltimore Police Col. Joseph S. Johnson for the job, while explaining why she was reversing her position. She said she thought Johnson had better credentials than Randall.
"One of thethings I had heartburn over with hiring a black deputy chief . . . was that nobody in the department was qualified. None of them even hada bachelor's degree in criminal justice, so if we had hired one of them for deputy chief it would be almost token," DeGraff said two weeks ago.
DeGraff said last week that she never claimed that no blackofficers were qualified for the job, as the BOA and other groups have interpreted her remarks, but rather that no one in the department was as qualified as Johnson.