Council questioning city police lending Norris his ex-driver

Agent still on Baltimore's payroll, not state police's

acting chief defends move

January 23, 2003|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Although Edward T. Norris has left his job as Baltimore police commissioner, he's still going to have the same city police officer acting as his aide and chauffeur - an arrangement that is drawing the ire of some City Council members.

Norris, who resigned last month to become superintendent of the Maryland State Police, has worked out an agreement with city police that allows Agent Thomas Tobin to continue working with him. But Tobin will remain on the city's payroll - which several council members say shouldn't be the funding source for a state job.

City police officials say the assignment is temporary. But city leaders question the move.

"If he's the state police chief, the state police should be driving him around," said Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young.

Council President Sheila Dixon was even more critical of the arrangement, which comes at a time when city police are facing budget woes.

"That's ludicrous," Dixon said. "He needs to put [Tobin] on the payroll. That's not right."

For the past three years, Tobin has been Norris' driver and aide. Top city police officials said that assigning Tobin to Norris was, in part, a goodwill gesture. Officials said they didn't want to do anything to derail Norris' pledge to dispatch dozens of state troopers to help fight city crime, an idea being discussed by state and city officials.

Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner John McEntee also said that Tobin, a 23-year veteran, is a limited-duty officer who has had a kidney transplant and several hip replacement surgeries. Health problems make him of limited use on the city force, McEntee said.

"Why am I sending one light-duty police agent in exchange for an undetermined number of state police investigators?" McEntee said. "The answer lies in the question. ... I just didn't find it to be an unreasonable request that he's asking for the detail of a limited-duty officer to assist him with his transition."

McEntee noted that Norris also has a provision in his contract for six months of city- financed security after leaving the force. Tobin's assignment was not part of the contract.

Norris said in a brief interview yesterday that the issue was being overblown. He would not comment further.

In recent weeks, two top city police officials have announced that they were joining the state police: Col. Robert F. Biemiller, chief of patrol, and Daniel S. O'Connor, chief of the human resources. Col. John Pignataro, who heads the technology division, is also expected to soon announce his resignation, officials said. Pignataro worked with Norris in the New York Police Department before following him to Baltimore.

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