Officer to appear before board

Lieutenant charged with insubordination

lawyer calls it a plot

History of conflict, tension

Richards had filed $13.5 million lawsuit against department

October 09, 2002|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Police Lt. Robert R. Richards, who has had a stormy relationship with the Police Department for several years, goes before a trial board today on charges of insubordination.

Richards, 39, is accused of two acts of insubordination on Feb. 8 -- not reporting to work when then-Maj. Zeinab Rabold ordered him to, and failing to get a physical examination on the day Rabold requested it. Richards could lose his job if found guilty.

Richards' attorney, Domenic Iamele, went to court yesterday in an unsuccessful bid to postpone the departmental trial.

Iamele said his client was on a medical leave when Rabold called him in to work on Friday, Feb. 8.

After Richards told Rabold he could not come in, Iamele said, Rabold ordered Richards to get a physical that day.

Physical at issue

When Richards called the doctor Rabold said would perform the physical, Richards told the physician it would be at least 90 minutes before he could get to the office, Iamele said.

Richards eventually scheduled a physical for Monday, Feb. 11. Richards reported for the physical on the Feb. 11 but was later charged by Rabold with insubordination, Iamele said.

"They want to terminate him," Iamele told Circuit Judge John N. Prevas. "Obviously, they're seeking to take this man ... and yank his job away from him."

Iamele sought a temporary restraining order against the Police Department that would have postponed the trial board hearing, but Prevas declined to issue it.

Iamele contends that the insubordination charges against Richards are in retaliation for a complaint Richards filed against Rabold on Jan. 15 that cited "disparate treatment."

The complaint also noted that Rabold transferred Richards to the Southeast District, under her supervision, although Rabold had been told by a deputy commissioner not to do so.

Richards and Rabold, now a lieutenant colonel, have a long history of acrimony, which includes Rabold's testimony against Richards when he was charged by the department with sexual harassment.

Attorneys Howard Hoffman and Maria Korman, both associate city solicitors, argued against postponing the trial board hearing, which will be conducted by law enforcement officers from other agencies.

Lawsuit settled

Richards' problems with the Police Department go back several years.

He filed a $13.5 million lawsuit against the city in U.S. District Court in 1996, alleging that he was discriminated against when he was promoted to sergeant but forced to leave the helicopter unit, where he wanted to remain a pilot.

Eventually, Richards settled the lawsuit with the city for an undisclosed amount, was reassigned as head of the helicopter unit and promoted to lieutenant.

But in December, two days after Mayor Martin O'Malley complained that police helicopters weren't flying enough, Commissioner Edward T. Norris demoted Richards to a job supervising street patrol officers in the Western District.

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