Area's FBI division leader leaving for Los Angeles Local law enforcers praise his cooperation with other agencies

September 28, 1996|By Scott Higham | Scott Higham,SUN STAFF

For nearly 22 years, Timothy P. McNally has had a storied run at the FBI.

Chasing drug smugglers and money launderers in Miami. Handling the criminal case against former Illinois Rep. Dan Rostenkowski. Supervising corruption probes, white-collar fraud cases and narcotics investigations in Baltimore.

But McNally's run is far from over.

After heading the Maryland-Delaware division for the past two years, the FBI agent with the ready smile and sharp wit has been assigned to supervise the FBI's second-largest division in the nation, after o New York.

In a few weeks, McNally, 49, will take over the Los Angeles field office, which has more than 600 agents, three times more than the Maryland-Delaware division, and is one of the highest profiles in the FBI. McNally's successor has not been named.

"I'm really going to miss this place," said McNally, a lawyer from the Midwest who started his career as an FBI agent in Southern California in 1975. "I've enjoyed every assignment I've had, but you feel lucky when you get to run a place like the Baltimore division."

That's classic McNally, his colleagues said. Always complimentary. Always finding positive things to say. Always trying to win people over.

Call around town to federal agents, prosecutors and police officers, and it's hard to find anyone with a harsh word.

"Really wonderful," said U.S. Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia.

"An excellent manager," said Benedict J. Ferro, director of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in Baltimore.

"Extremely sorry to see him go," said U.S. Marshal George McKinney.

For McNally and his colleagues, the promotion is bittersweet. Last year, he bought a house in Annapolis and started to settle into his postion in Woodlawn.

His counterparts at agencies such as the Secret Service and INS said McNally was finally transforming the old image of the FBI as a case-stealing, credit-grabbing agency.

They said McNally was building bridges between federal and local law enforcement groups, providing them with agents and the vast resources of the FBI. It's part of a message that FBI supervisors are receiving from the Justice Department these days.

"He's one of the new breed of the FBI," said Thomas C. Frazier, Baltimore Police commissioner. "He's a good manager, and a good team player."

In the past, FBI supervisors were reluctant to work with other law enforcement officers. They didn't want to share information and confidential sources. Frazier said McNally changed that, dedicating FBI agents to work on drug investigations and police corruption probes in the city.

"He's a class act," the police commissioner said. "It's shame he's leaving."

Richard A. Rhode, the chief of the U.S. Secret Service in Baltimore, said he met McNally by happenstance at Pope John Paul II's Mass at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in October.

"I got this first impression that this was going to work very well," Rhode recalled.

The FBI and the Secret Service have jurisdiction over some of the same crimes, such as bank and financial institution fraud. In some field offices, that competition can create bad blood among agents.

But that hasn't happened in Baltimore, Rhode said. "He wants to work in partnership."

In his two years in Baltimore, McNally has had a string of successes, his colleagues and counterparts said. An FBI investigation of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City resulted in a string of bribery convictions. An investigation of alleged campaign finance fraud by Democratic fund-raiser Lalit Gadhia resulted in a conviction.

McNally placed more emphasis on health care fraud and violent crime cases. His field office cracked a huge child pornography case. He dedicated agents to investigate environmental crimes. And his fugitive task force made about 2,000 arrests last year -- more than any other FBI field office in the nation.

Still, McNally said his proudest achievement has been establishing ties to other law enforcement agencies.

"I think I've ensured a very cooperative relationship with the FBI," he said.

His colleagues agree.

"Tim understands that to be effective in law enforcement, you have to work with state and local and federal agencies. That sounds easy, but it's not," said Battaglia, whose office prosecutes cases investigated by the FBI and other agencies. "I'm really sorry to see him go."

McNally's longtime friends aren't surprised by the superlatives. When McNally was running a drug squad in Miami during the height of the cocaine smuggling days of the 1980s, he quickly won the admiration of his colleagues.

"On a scale of one to 10, he's a 14," said Michael Wald, a retired FBI agent who worked with McNally in Miami and was a key undercover figure in the Abscam political corruption investigations from 1978 to 1980.

"In L.A., it's time for rejoicing," Wald said. "In Baltimore, it's a time for regret."

Pub Date: 9/28/96

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