Mayor blocked in bid to put chief on leave

July 02, 1995|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

A Harford Circuit Court judge granted a 10-day injunction Friday, stopping the mayor of Havre de Grace from placing the city's police chief on administrative leave.

Judge Maurice W. Baldwin said in his written order that it appeared ". . . pertinent provisions of the Havre de Grace Charter may be violated if [the police chief's] leave with pay status is continued."

Judge Baldwin also said William L. Lamphere, the police chief, would suffer "irreparable injury" to his professional reputation, if the injunction were not granted.

Mayor Gunther Hirsch asked Chief Lamphere on Tuesday to voluntarily take administrative leave with pay, according to city officials, the chief and court records. He asked the chief to cooperate with an investigation.

Chief Lamphere, a veteran of nearly 25 years on the Havre de Grace force, said Thursday that no specific allegations were mentioned.

A city official told The Sun, however, that the allegations against the chief may involve sexual discrimination, such as favoring men over women in job assignments.

A City Hall spokeswoman for the mayor who was contacted Thursday and Friday said that under orders from Mayor Hirsch, no city official would comment.

Officials at the Baltimore office of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Maryland Commission on Human Relations said Friday that any discrimination complaints filed there are confidential.

Various City Council members contacted Thursday said that no specific allegations against Chief Lamphere were raised at a closed meeting June 22 when the mayor and City Manager Robert Lange briefed the council.

Henry J. Schreiber, the City Council president, said he will address the matter at tomorrow's council meeting, scheduled for 8 p.m. at City Hall on Pennington Avenue.

If the matter is not resolved within 10 days, the parties could end up before Judge Baldwin for a full hearing on whether Havre de Grace can place the police chief on administrative leave. Either side could let the injunction expire or the city could file charges and put the chief on administrative leave if two-thirds of the council votes to support that action.

Chief Lamphere, 49, took command of the 25-member department in 1989. He started as a volunteer in 1967 and came up through the ranks. He said he initially agreed at Tuesday's meeting with Mayor Hirsch to go on administrative leave, thinking that he could cooperate with any investigation the city wanted and get the matter resolved.

The next day, after consulting with Bel Air lawyer John E. Kelly and after reviewing the City Charter, he decided to stay on the job.

"I have no problem with any investigation, but there is a nicer way to do this," Chief Lamphere said.

"I can justify any personnel decisions I've made, if that's what the problem really is. And I'll be happy to do so, provided there is a hearing, as the City Charter calls for, and I have time to respond to any allegation."

Chief Lamphere said that from the little he has been able to learn of the unspecified allegations, "I don't believe there is anything of substance."

In a letter Thursday to Mayor Hirsch on behalf of his client, Mr. Kelly said, "Chief Lamphere will not step down until he has been afforded the opportunities under Section 56 and Section 27 of the City Charter."

Section 27 provides that the City Council at a hearing can remove any mayor-appointed officer for willful neglect, violation of duties or inability to perform duties. Such action requires a two-thirds affirmative vote of the council, Mr. Kelly said in Friday's complaint for an injunction.

Section 56, he said, states "All officers . . . shall continue to hold, exercise and discharge the duties of their respective offices until they shall be superseded under provisions of this Charter. . . . "

Mr. Kelly also cited Section 50 of the City Charter that states that the police chief shall hold his office "until removal from office upon charges brought by the mayor and City Council after a two-thirds vote, resignation, or death."

Frederick J. Hatem Jr., a Bel Air lawyer representing Havre de Grace, responded to Mr. Kelly's letter to Mayor Hirsch on Thursday, confirming that no charges had been brought against Chief Lamphere.

By authority of the mayor, Mr. Hatem wrote, ". . . effective immediately, Chief Lamphere is placed on administrative leave with pay."

Rather than comply, Mr. Lamphere sought and obtained Friday's injunction.

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