Balog bodyguard followed her, whistle-blower tells court

Ex-Public Works officials accused of intimidation

May 17, 2000|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

After she publicly criticized a landfill repair contract and cooperated with federal investigators, Jeanne Robinson testified yesterday, a bodyguard for George G. Balog, Baltimore's public works director at the time, started trailing her.

Robinson, a Public Works engineer, said she spotted the man she knew only as Rocky watching her as she left her young children with her mother before work.

Robinson said she waved to him, thinking he was admiring her children. She grew concerned, she said, when she noticed him following her at lunch and after work.

"He was everywhere," Robinson said, pointing to the bodyguard as part of what she called the pattern of retaliation and intimidation she faced after speaking out against top department officers in 1995 and 1996. The man was not fully identified, and defense attorneys did not challenge her allegations.

Robinson's testimony came on the second day of her whistle-blower trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Robinson and another city engineer, David Marc, are suing Balog and two other former Public Works officials, claiming that the supervisors punished them for exercising their First Amendment free-speech rights.

Balog and the other former officials, Leonard H. Addison and Robert F. Guston, have denied wrongdoing. They argue that Robinson and Marc are disgruntled workers who didn't like tough management decisions.

Jurors in the federal trial must decide whether Robinson and Marc faced on-the-job retaliation because they criticized the repair contract at Baltimore's Quarantine Landfill. Underlying the case are questions about possible political favoritism in city government.

Robinson and Marc alleged that a Baltimore contractor, L. F. Mahoney Inc., was awarded the contract as part of a system that rewarded contributors to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's re-election campaign. All officials involved have denied the charge.

Outside the courtroom yesterday, Joseph S. Kaufman, law partner of the attorney for Robinson and Marc, asked Assistant City Solicitor Michael Raimondi why he was helping Balog's lawyers.

"Mr. Raimondi said, `I think he's an honest man.' I said, `Well, I think he's a crook,' " Kaufman said a few minutes later in open court, relaying the conversation to U.S. District Judge Frederic N. Smalkin.

Kaufman was addressing the judge because Benjamin W. Hahn, who represents Balog, raised objections in court, saying he feared that one of the jurors might have overheard Kaufman calling Balog a crook in the courthouse hallway.

Questioned by Smalkin, the juror said she had not heard anything, and Smalkin resumed the trial. It is expected to continue through next week.

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