School board member chosen as solicitor

If confirmed by council, Tyler will succeed Zollicoffer in June

April 29, 2004|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Mayor Martin O'Malley announced yesterday that he has selected Baltimore school board member Ralph S. Tyler, a former state deputy attorney general, to serve as the new city solicitor.

Tyler, 57, a partner in the law firm of Hogan & Hartson, said he will step down from the school board June 1 and begin as the city's top lawyer if he is confirmed by the City Council.

He would replace city solicitor Thurman W. Zollicoffer Jr., a longtime friend and former law school classmate of O'Malley's. Zollicoffer said this month that he will return to higher-paid work as a partner in his former law firm, Whiteford, Taylor and Preston.

"Ralph is a public lawyer of the highest order," O'Malley said yesterday. "It's humbling that he is willing to forgo private practice at a high-caliber law firm to return to public service and the difficult, almost thankless, work it entails."

Before becoming a partner at Hogan & Hartson in 1995, Tyler served for 13 years in the Maryland attorney general's office, working as chief of litigation.

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., the mayor's father-in-law, said yesterday that Tyler has an excellent knowledge of how government works, having represented the Maryland Department of Human Resources and other agencies.

"He is one of the best and brightest lawyers in the entire state - and I've been around long enough to have seen quite a few of them," said Curran, who was first elected in 1986, four years after Tyler started working as an assistant attorney general.

Curran said he did not make a specific recommendation to O'Malley on behalf of Tyler. Curran said O'Malley apparently became closer to Tyler after appointing him to the school board in July and working with him on educational issues. O'Malley's chief of operations, Michael Enright, also got to know Tyler while working as an aide to Curran.

"I support strongly what the mayor is doing for the city and I am honored to have the opportunity to assist him in any way that I can," Tyler said in a written statement. "I'm anxious to get started."

If confirmed, Tyler will earn $133,900 a year, the same as Zollicoffer, who served for four years, city officials said.

The city solicitor is one of the highest profile positions in city government. The solicitor provides advice and legal counsel to the mayor and City Council; runs a law department with a staff of 53 attorneys and a $6.7 million annual budget; and serves on the five-member Board of Estimates, which approves most city contracts and expenditures.

Tyler, a longtime city resident, earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois in 1969, a law degree from Case Western Reserve in Ohio in 1972 and an advanced degree in legal studies from Harvard University in 1977, according to a biography released by the mayor's office.

He was hired by the attorney general's office in 1982 and worked on civil rights litigation, environmental law and other areas. He successfully defended the state against gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey's lawsuit challenging the outcome of her close 1994 race against Parris N. Glendening.

During the past nine years at Hogan & Hartson, Tyler has handled several pro-bono cases. He represented Bernard Webster, who received $900,000 from the state in compensation for 20 years he spent in prison on a false rape conviction.

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