Norris gets Senate OK in 41-4 vote

Confirmed police chief rebuked for leaving city

February 15, 2003|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris cleared the final obstacle to becoming state police superintendent yesterday, but not before receiving a verbal lashing for breaking a commitment to his former employer and accepting a $137,000 severance payment from a cash-strapped city.

The Maryland Senate voted 41-4 to confirm Norris to his new state job. Sen. George W. Della Jr., a Baltimore Democrat, led the opposition.

"This nominee made a promise to the mayor of the city, to the people of the city," Della said. "The gentleman didn't keep that commitment. It bothers me. It bothers me greatly."

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. wooed Norris from Baltimore late last year. After three years as city police commissioner, Norris will collect a $137,000 lump-sum payment, plus $6,850 yearly for life, for resigning and accepting a new job.

Della said many of his constituents are working-class city employees who spend decades on the job, and "they don't get a pension of $6,000 for life."

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley has conceded that Norris' contract allowing the payout was poorly crafted.

"He's taking advantage of a windfall where he can, but he shouldn't," said Sen. Rona E. Kramer of Montgomery County, who voted against the nomination along with Della and Sens. Joan Carter Conway of Baltimore and Delores G. Kelley of Baltimore County.

Norris' confirmation had been delayed twice, mostly because black senators were concerned about his opposition to part of a settlement in a decade-old state police racial profiling lawsuit.

Those concerns were erased after a series of private meetings in the past week.

"We were assured that there would be a signed document within a month," said Sen. Lisa A. Gladden of Baltimore, who had sought to postpone the confirmation.

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