O'Malley says Norris more competent as police chief than as an accountant

August 14, 2002|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Mayor Martin O'Malley said yesterday that he was angry about the "sloppy" accounting and "poor management" of the "arcane, strange, off-line account" that Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris has been using for travel and entertainment to recruit officers.

O'Malley said the accounting lapses reflected poorly on Norris' management. But the mayor said he was proud to keep Norris on as police commissioner because he is one of the nation's greatest crime fighters, someone who has saved many lives and made Baltimore safer.

Under Norris' leadership, the city Police Department has helped the city to achieve the highest rate of violent crime reduction in the United States, O'Malley said.

"We all have our strengths and weaknesses," O'Malley said. "He has great strengths in saving lives and preventing crime ... but he is not as strong as an accountant."

The mayor said he learned about the "bizarre" account's existence only a few weeks ago, when The Sun started asking for records showing how the money was being spent.

City Council President Sheila Dixon and several other City Council members said they had never heard of the account. Many said the funds should have had better oversight.

"I don't support having a fund like this at all," said Dixon. "Perhaps the money should be used for PAL [the Police Athletic League], which is desperate for funds, instead of wining and dining."

Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr. said: "We are talking about fiscal responsibility here, and it doesn't sound like [Norris] used good management practices for the fund."

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