City police subpoenaed for more of Norris' data

Federal officials seeking wide range of records

April 02, 2003|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Already investigating the use of an off-the-books Baltimore police expense account, federal authorities yesterday subpoenaed more records from the city force, this time requesting extensive telephone records and even laptop computers used by Edward T. Norris during his tenure as police commissioner.

The subpoena arrived at city police headquarters yesterday, and police officials said they were cooperating with the federal investigation. A federal grand jury in February launched a probe into the little-known expense account used by Norris to finance thousands of dollars in trips, expensive meals and gifts.

Authorities yesterday sought "appointment calendars, telephone logs, address books, cell phone records, telephone records, travel expense records, travel reimbursement records and payroll records relative to Edward T. Norris during his tenure," according to a copy of the subpoena obtained by The Sun.

The subpoena also asked the department to turn over "all laptop computers purchased by, assigned to or used by" Norris during his time as commissioner. Norris bought office supplies and other items with the account's cash, including a $472.49 Palm Pilot and a $3,783.75 high-end Apple laptop that he kept in his house.

The request follows another delivered to the city Police Department last week that was far broader and "sought cellular phones, issuance of laptop computers, credit cards, expense accounts, and other expenses paid to police department employees for travel and business expenses," according to the subpoena served on the department Thursday.

Norris, who resigned in December to become superintendent of the Maryland State Police, declined to comment through a spokesman.

The investigation appears to have begun in late February when a special investigator for U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio subpoenaed receipts, checks and other records related to the expense fund, known as the "supplemental account."

That came three months after city officials released an independent audit that questioned several thousand dollars in expenses. The city later deducted $7,663 from Norris' $137,000 severance package.

Among Norris' questionable purchases were $2,070 for tickets, souvenirs and food at Orioles baseball games for himself, his inner circle and friends.

He also spent several thousand dollars on trips to New York, including one to interview for another job. He and aides spent nearly $2,500 at a Manhattan steakhouse during those trips. The disclosure of Norris' spending led to an independent audit released in November that was the basis for the deduction from the severance package.

Peggy Watson, the city's finance director, said yesterday that she is going to ask city police to write a letter seeking answers about an expense that was reimbursed for Norris' chief of staff, John S. Stendrini.

Stendrini submitted a $1,428 bill for a stay at a bed-and-breakfast in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario. The visit coincided with a police conference about 80 miles away in Toronto. He was also reimbursed for a $188.99 car rental on the trip.

Stendrini submitted the bill in Canadian dollars, not U.S. currency, which means the city overpaid his reimbursement by about $450.

Efforts to reach Stendrini were unsuccessful.

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