O'Malley chides Norris for 'sloppy' accounting

Mayor says he is proud of official's police work

August 14, 2002|By Tom Pelton | By 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 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 a safer place.

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: "It doesn't sound like [Norris] used good management practices for the fund."

O'Malley defended Norris, saying that past police commissioners have used these private funds in similar ways for decades. But O'Malley said he was upset to learn that receipts were missing, leaving some money unaccounted for.

"You should be reconciling this account every month, not only when a reporter stumbles across it every 72 years," O'Malley said. "Apparently, the people under Norris who should monitor this did not serve him well. But ultimately, it's his responsibility."

The mayor said he's satisfied that Norris and his staff did not use the money in any criminal or inappropriate ways.

"When we came across this, we said it should be fixed and fixed in a way that is consistent with an open and transparent government," O'Malley said. "It's a lesson well learned, and it will lead [Norris] to pay a lot more attention to the administrative side of his operation than he has in the past."

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