City police union drops one of its ethics complaints against Solicitor Zollicoffer

FOP to concentrate on state board grievance

July 23, 2002|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

The city's police union has withdrawn one of two ethics complaints it filed against Baltimore City Solicitor Thurman W. Zollicoffer Jr.

In May, the Fraternal Order of Police asked the city's ethics board and a state panel that disciplines lawyers to investigate whether Zollicoffer violated his ethical obligations as a lawyer and a city official when he interfered with a police investigation of his nephew.

The union decided to drop the complaint with Baltimore's Board of Ethics about two weeks ago to concentrate on the one filed with the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission, which would have more power to discipline Zollicoffer, union President Gary McLhinney said yesterday.

"We dropped it with the city ethics commission," he said. "The attorney grievance [commission] is the proper forum for it. And quite frankly, the city ethics commission ... [doesn't] have much teeth."

The state commission can recommend sanctions up to and including disbarment. It has 90 days from the date of McLhinney's May 3 complaint to complete its inquiry.

The complaints stem from an incident April 30 when Zollicoffer showed up at his nephew's Northeast Baltimore home and interfered with the young man's arrest on drug charges.

Zollicoffer has apologized for challenging the officers' right to be at his nephew's house while they awaited a search warrant and for comparing them to the Gestapo. Officers said Zollicoffer also threatened their jobs, which the solicitor has denied.

Zollicoffer's office said he was on vacation yesterday and unavailable for comment on the union's decision. His lawyer, Harry S. Johnson, a partner at Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, declined to comment.

Zollicoffer was a partner at Whiteford, Taylor & Preston before becoming city solicitor in 1999. Johnson and a spokesman for the mayor's office said Zollicoffer is paying the firm out of his own pocket.

"He's paying the regular Whiteford, Taylor, Preston rate," Johnson said.

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