Ehrlich denies he's looking for new chief

No list exists of potential replacements for Norris as head of police, he says

December 02, 2003|By Del Quentin Wilber and David Nitkin | Del Quentin Wilber and David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. denied yesterday reports that his staff has been searching for a potential replacement for state police Superintendent Edward T. Norris, who is under federal investigation stemming from his activities as Baltimore police commissioner.

"I stand by my people," Ehrlich said, denying a report in The Sun on Sunday that his administration had compiled a list of possible replacements for Norris should he be indicted. "There is no truth to any of that."

Ehrlich said that his recent discussions with Norris had not focused on the superintendent's legal problems or the investigation, but rather on the work of the state police.

"We've discussed it," Ehrlich said of the federal probe. "It is not a dominant part of our discussions."

Although Ehrlich denied the search, sources familiar with the situation have said that the governor's staff has compiled a list of at least six replacements for Norris and hired a private investigator to delve into their backgrounds.

Ehrlich said he would not conduct a national search for a new police chief if Norris were indicted and resigned, but would turn to others he considered for the job when he took office.

"If the position would come open, it would be a familiar list," Ehrlich said. "We hope and trust that we would never reach that point."

Two of those on the list were considered last year, the sources said.

They are Thomas E. Hutchins, an ex-trooper and former member of the House of Delegates who is secretary of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, and Douglas DeLeaver, chief of the Maryland Transit Administration Police.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors filed an additional subpoena with Baltimore police Wednesday seeking records and documents concerning all federal grants received by the department during Norris' three-year tenure as commissioner.

Federal prosecutors may be trying to link the federal money to thousands of dollars racked up in overtime by Norris' driver, who appears to have become a crucial witness in the probe. Agent Thomas Tobin made more than $40,000 a year in overtime in 2001 and last year, on top of his $53,117 salary.

Federal authorities began to investigate Norris early this year and have focused on his use of an off-the-books expense account and the amount of overtime earned by aides.

Norris used the expense account to finance thousands of dollars in trips, meals and gifts, and had $7,663 in personal and questionable expenses deducted from his $137,000 severance package when he left the city last year to join the state police.

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