Judge upholds demotions of policemen

June 07, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

An Anne Arundel Circuit judge yesterday let stand the demotions of two county police officers who were accused of having sex with informants, but directed the police chief to reconsider the demotion of one of them.

Judge Eugene M. Lerner upheld the findings of a trial board that recommended the demotions of Bret K. Ballam and Henry A. McClung from sergeant to patrol officer. The trial board ruled the two men had violated department policy that forbids officers from socializing with informants. But Judge Lerner directed Chief Robert Russell to re-evaluate Officer Ballam's demotion because he said there was insufficient evidence to find him guilty of one of the two infractions that formed the basis for his Dec. 8 demotion.

Officer Ballam was demoted for drinking alcohol in his police car with an informant and for conduct unbecoming an officer for having sexual relations with the informant.

Officer Ballam admitted having sex with the informant once in a police car on Thelma Avenue.

But in his review of the case, the judge said there was "no evidence" in the transcript of the trial board hearing last year to show that Officer Ballam drank in the police car with the informant.

The officers' attorney, Thomas Pavlinic, had appealed the demotions, alleging that department officials violated the officers' rights by failing to notify them of the specifics of the allegations, ignoring evidence in their favor and failing to provide timely notice of the punishments they faced.

But in opinions filed separately for each officer, Judge Lerner noted that the law requires him to review the demotions in "the light most favorable" to the Police Department. He said that in both cases, there was substantial evidence supporting the chief's actions.

"It was the Police Chief's independent decision to accept the recommendation of the hearing board to demote . . . [them], and this court is not inclined to change that determination in any way, shape or form," the judge wrote.

Mr. Pavlinic said he was disappointed with the decision and that he would appeal to the Court of Special Appeals.

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