Lawsuit accuses Balog of threats Two city employees say landfill dispute led to 'job intimidation'

November 22, 1996|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,SUN STAFF Sun Staff Writer JoAnna Daemmrich contributed to this article.

The director of the Baltimore Department of Public Works, George G. Balog, retaliated against two public works employees who publicly challenged his account of repair problems at a city landfill, the employees allege in a lawsuit filed yesterday in U.S. District Court.

In a nine-page complaint, David J. Marc, an engineer supervisor in DPW's Bureau of General Services, and Jeanne Robinson, acting chief of the engineering division in DPW's Bureau of Solid Waste, say Balog subjected them to "job intimidation and harassment."

The point of the harassment, the suit claims, was to force the pair to retract their criticisms and to remain silent.

The repairs in question were made by L .F. Mahoney Inc., a company hired by the city and described in the lawsuit as a "political benefactor" of Balog. The suit claims that Robinson and Marc were harassed "in an effort to draw public attention away from the questionable performance of L. F. Mahoney Inc. and to deter investigation by law enforcement authorities."

The dispute over the repairs dates to last fall, when Balog ousted Ken Strong, then head of the city's Bureau of Solid Waste. Strong had charged that the repairs were shoddy. Strong's firing helped prompt a continuing FBI inquiry into the matter.

Robinson was among those current and former employees subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury this year about the Quarantine Road landfill, according to the suit.

The suit also lists the city and two Balog aides -- Bureau of General Services head Robert Guston and Bureau of Solid Waste head Leonard H. Addison -- as defendants.

Provided with a copy of the complaint yesterday, DPW spokesman Kurt Kocher said Balog would have no comment. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke also declined to comment. Efforts to reach Leonard Mahoney, of L. F. Mahoney, and Howard J. Schulman, a lawyer for Marc and Robinson, were unsuccessful.

Last year, after cracks were discovered in the pond for collection of leachate, or runoff, from the Quarantine Road landfill, Marc and Robinson refused to certify the repairs L. F. Mahoney had made to the pond. Marc and Robinson say in the complaint that they could not make such certification because of "defects" in the repairs.

Robinson and Marc, who still work at DPW, say they were pressured by Balog and aides to take responsibility for the problems with repairs, but they refused.

The alleged harassment against them ranged from reprimands to the confiscation of Marc's city car, parking permit and laptop computer.

Robinson alleges she was relieved of her duties, and Marc claims he was transferred and denied in his request for retirement.

After being stripped of her duties, Robinson had her files taken from her and "relocated beyond her immediate access," the suit alleges.

Marc and Robinson were not allowed to work lucrative snow duty, were shut out of staff meetings, and were ignored by co-workers on the orders of the defendants, the suit says.

The two employees also say Balog defamed them by questioning their competence during DPW meetings and in comments to The Sun.

Each plaintiff asks for $750,000 in damages and court relief from "retaliatory conduct."

Marc and Robinson were punished because they "exercised their free speech and in order to deter [them] from further exercise of their right to free speech," the suit says.

DPW engineers and officials had questioned whether cracks in the pond could allow contaminated runoff to escape the landfill, seep into the ground water, and contaminate the public water supply.

Balog said there was no problem with the repairs. He blamed the cracks on the summer heat and Strong's alleged refusal to fill the pond, despite Balog's orders.

After Robinson was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in June, the harassment escalated, the suit says.

In recent months, Balog and other supervisors have blamed Strong and Robinson when questions are raised by The Sun about shoddy maintenance of city landfills. In one case, Balog blamed Strong for problems at the Monument Street landfill -- even though internal DPW documents, including Balog's own memos, contradict that claim.

Pub Date: 11/22/96

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