Police board acquits county officer of having sex with informant But Ballam guilty of improper conduct

November 18, 1993|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff Writer

A county police officer was acquited yesterday on charges of having sex with a confidential informant, but a police hearing board found him guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the department.

The three-member board also found Sgt. Bret K. Ballam, 35, guilty of having alcohol in a department car. Sergeant Ballam, who attended the hearing with his fiancee and several supporters, would not comment on the decision.

The board is scheduled to recommend a punishment to Police Chief Robert Russell today. Chief Russell will review the case and make the final decision.

Sergeant Ballam, a 16-year veteran of the department, admitted to having sex with the woman, but said it happened in January 1992, while he was assigned to patrol and off duty on medical leave. His attorney, Thomas Pavlinic, acknowledged such behavior was forbidden by narcotics officers, however those rules did not apply to patrol officers at the time.

"I think that is why the board dropped that charge," he said.

He speculated that the board considered the sex charges under the category of conduct unbecoming.

In such matters the board issues its decision without an explanation.

"They did not believe that he was assigned to narcotics at the time," said Sgt. Thomas Kinnane, who handled the administration's case.

Sergeant Ballam was one of six officers charged last summer with having a sexual relationship with a confidential narcotics informant. He is the second officer to air his case before a hearing board.

According to testimony during the three-day hearing, department officials contended that Sergeant Ballam was working undercover in narcotics on April 23, 1991, when he had sex with a 19-year-old woman after buying drugs in Meade Village. The informant was 17 years old at the time. The sergeant also was charged with having sex with the woman last January, while he was on medical leave.

The woman, who is being held in the county detention center on prostitution charges, had trouble remembering particular incidents. She testified that she has been a drug user since she was 11 years old, which "makes some facts foggy."

She said she had sex with Sergeant Ballam about four times in January or February 1992.

Throughout the hearing, held in a conference room at police headquarters in Millersville, Mr. Pavlinic accused department officials of mishandling the case and withholding statements and other information that he was entitled to under the Law Enforcement Officer's Bill of Rights.

He said statements were withheld showing the 19-year-old was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when she was interviewed by Internal Affairs detectives.

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