Fired officer wins appeal for new trial She lost job in '93 after being charged with hindering probe

Judge dismissed her suit

Ruling could lead to reinstatement by Annapolis police

October 20, 1995|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

An Annapolis police officer fired in 1993 for interfering in an internal affairs investigation has been granted a new trial that could lead to her being reinstated.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled that Lisa Whiting, 32, of Crofton is entitled to a hearing in Anne Arundel Circuit Court on the legality of her dismissal.

Ms. Whiting, who had been on the force for four years, was fired in February 1993 after a police trial board found she had interfered with an investigation into whether she had harassed her former boyfriend.

The trial board found her guilty of making false statements to internal affairs investigators and of trying to stop a probe into whether she had threatened Timothy Bittinger, a Hanover construction worker with whom she once had a personal relationship.

On Aug. 26, 1994, Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Eugene M. Lerner dismissed Ms. Whiting's suit challenging the dismissal, ruling that she had not filed a required legal memo by the Oct. 1, 1993, deadline.

Annapolis City Attorney Paul Goetzke had sought the dismissal, arguing that Ms. Whiting's failure to submit the memo left the Annapolis Police Department ill-equipped to address the legal issues that might be raised by her challenge.

In its eight-page opinion, the appeals court said the memo deadline was not an ironclad requirement and that the Police Department was not unfairly penalized or "prejudiced" by its absence.

"Under the circumstances, the prejudice alleged by the Department simply did not occur," said the unsigned opinion from a three-judge panel.

Joel L. Katz, Ms. Whiting's original lawyer, withdrew from the case after the suit was filed.

Ms. Whiting thought he had submitted all of the necessary legal papers before he withdrew, according to the opinion.

The appeals court said Judge Lerner could have ordered Ms. Whiting's new lawyer, Carl R. Schlaich, to submit the memo, then rescheduled the trial.

"The trial court abused its discretion by dismissing the case," the court said.

Ms. Whiting was unavailable for comment.

Mr. Goetzke said yesterday afternoon that he had not reviewed the decision and could not comment on it.

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