Bank chief ordered to pay alimony fee

1st Mariner executive says he'll appeal $1.3 million for late payments

September 06, 2002|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A state court ordered yesterday that Edwin F. Hale Sr., chairman and chief executive officer of First Mariner Bancorp., pay his ex-wife $1.3 million as a penalty for failing to make alimony payments on time after their divorce in 1988.

The Court of Special Appeals decision reversed a Baltimore County Circuit Court ruling last year that had barred Sheila F. Thacker from collecting the sum.

Hale said he will appeal yesterday's ruling to the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court.

"I'm definitely going to appeal," he said.

Hale was ordered to pay a total of $3.6 million in 1988 when the couple divorced after 23 years of marriage. As part of the divorce decree, Hale was required to make an initial payment of $900,000, and annual payments of $136,250 over 20 years.

But Hale was consistently late making payments, and Thacker filed suit two years ago to enforce a provision in the divorce decree requiring payment of the entire amount due if Hale didn't pay on time, said Shale D. Stiller, Thacker's lawyer.

"He was late year after year, and she reached a point where she said enough is enough," Stiller said.

John Nowicki, Hale's lawyer, said Thacker accepted the late payments over the years and shouldn't be allowed to collect a windfall now.

He said that Hale has since made all of the annual payments that were due.

"Sometimes he was late with the payments, but everybody acknowledges that she got paid," Nowicki said. "It was just a course of dealing that they developed."

Judge Christian M. Kahl ruled last year that requiring payment of $1.3 million was "an unenforceable penalty."

But the appeals court said allowing judges to freely revise divorce judgments would "open the floodgates of continuous litigation" in such cases.

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