Police chief of Havre de Grace agrees to resign, accepts $87,000 severance deal Mayor seals investigation of 30-year veteran of force

February 13, 1996|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,SUN STAFF

Ending an eight-month legal standoff, Havre de Grace's police chief has agreed to take an $87,000 severance package and resign -- while any complaints against him remained secret.

The town has asked the Maryland State Police to assign one of its senior supervisory officers to run the department until a replacement is found for Chief William L. Lamphere, Mayor Gunther D. Hirsch said at a news conference yesterday.

"The file has been closed and the investigation sealed," the mayor said, adding that the secrecy was the town's idea and not part of the settlement.

Asked why the reasons for the long dispute and the chief's resignation were not being divulged, Mayor Hirsch said only, "Our main interest has always been to protect the integrity of the police force."

Mr. Lamphere's lawyer, John E. Kelly, said there was no investigation and -- despite the account of an unnamed city official, who told The Sun in June that allegations then involved complaints of sexual discrimination in the department -- no complaint of wrongdoing was made against the chief.

Mr. Kelly said that Chief Lamphere -- who ran the department since 1989 and was on the force for nearly 30 years -- does not even know why town officials wanted him to leave.

"The mayor and city council told us that no allegations of criminal wrongdoing had been made against the chief and that their evaluation showed this," Mr. Kelly said. "And then they refused to give us a copy of the evaluation."

He said the town told Mr. Lamphere, 50, that the evaluation was of the entire department and not directed specifically at him.

Mayor Hirsch, however, said allegations by 15 employees of the Police Department had been investigated and resolved. He would not say whether the allegations were against Mr. Lamphere, but denied that they involved sexual discrimination.

In June, Mr. Hirsch and city officials asked Mr. Lamphere to take a paid leave of absence while unspecified complaints against him were investigated. Mr. Lamphere refused and a Harford circuit judge ruled the town's charter did not allow city officials to force him to comply.

Mr. Lamphere, who had an annual salary of $51,000, refused to take the leave because no one would tell him what the charges were, Mr. Kelly said.

Mayor Hirsch said Chief Lamphere's resignation was not connected with the allegations in June, but resulted from a difference in philosophy about how the 26-officer Police Department should be run.

"We want to step a step back and regroup while we decide on the future philosophy of police in a small municipality in this country," Mr. Hirsch said.

Until the state police name an acting chief, the department will be run by one of its own senior officers, Lt. John Van Gilder.

Mr. Lamphere's severance package include a year of health insurance, about $19,000 in unused sick time, $8,000 to $9,000 in unused vacation time and a $57,000 contribution to his retirement plan.

The $57,000 is what Mr. Lamphere would have accrued in his retirement plan had he continued to work until retiring at age 62, the mayor said.

Also during the news conference, the mayor said a lawsuit on overtime filed against the town by 17 police officers has been settled. He said the town, while admitting to no wrongdoing, agreed to pay each of the officers $3,400.

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