Kaufman files complaint over meeting ouster

City mayoral hopeful appeals to ACLU for help

January 19, 1999|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Baltimore mayoral candidate A. Robert Kaufman has filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union against fellow mayoral hopeful and City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III over being expelled from a Sept. 28 council meeting.

The 67-year-old civic activist showed up at the autumn council meeting dressed as Diogenes, an ancient Greek philosopher noted for his search for an honest man. Kaufman had been asking the city to invest $250,000 and authorize a $9 million bond issue to create an insurance cooperative that he says would save city residents billions in auto insurance premiums.

Before the meeting, Kaufman stood on the council floor talking with members. Bell asked the floor to be cleared when city police, serving as security, asked Kaufman to leave, Bell said. Police officers later told Kaufman that Bell asked them to remove him from the chamber.

As a result of Kaufman's ACLU complaint, Dwight H. Sullivan, managing attorney of the Baltimore chapter, wrote to Bell for an explanation. Bell told Sullivan he did not intend to have Kaufman expelled from the chambers or building.

"Perhaps, pursuant to Executive-Promotions rules and regulations on security, the officer was required to escort Mr. Kaufman out of the chambers," Bell replied in a letter to the agency.

Bell assured Sullivan that Kaufman, president of the City-Wide Coalition, would be permitted to attend future council meetings.

However, Kaufman -- arrested Jan. 12 and charged with trespassing, disturbing the peace and disobeying police for handing out fliers at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall -- is not satisfied with the council president's response. Kaufman said he is seeking an attorney to pursue the matter.

Kaufman said Bell used his power as council president in "a corrupt and abusive fashion."

In his letter to the ACLU, Bell said, "The Council hopes that what occurred at [the] session will not impair our amicable relationship with Mr. Kaufman."

Pub Date: 1/19/99

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