Court halts order on Clark report

City had been told earlier to release records on domestic dispute probe

September 22, 2004|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals yesterday postponed for several days a circuit judge's order that city officials make public an investigative report detailing police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark's domestic dispute this year.

The move by the appellate court came late yesterday, soon after city officials asked for a stay - or postponement - of the order signed earlier in the day by Baltimore Circuit Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan.

Kaplan had ordered Mayor Martin O'Malley to release the records by tomorrow afternoon.

The Court of Special Appeals said it would halt the order until lawyers from The Sun and WBAL-TV, who have sued for the documents, had a chance to tell the court why the order should not be delayed while the appeals process plays out. The appellate court said it wants that explanation by Tuesday.

After that, the court will decide whether to fully grant the stay, which would mean the documents would be sealed until the end of the potentially months-long appeals process.

Clark was accused by his fiancee, Blanca Gerena, of assaulting her during an early morning dispute May 15. Both later denied an assault occurred.

O'Malley sought an independent review of the incident and turned to the Howard County Police Department, which issued a report saying any charges would be "unsubstantiated."

The Sun and WBAL-TV sued the city and O'Malley in June, asking for documents related to the investigation. City officials have declined public information requests, saying the documents are related to confidential personnel matters.

Last week, Kaplan ruled that the report was not a personnel matter and said O'Malley would have to release it to the press. Yesterday's order, telling the city to release documents by tomorrow, came as a result of that hearing.

Once they received Kaplan's order, city lawyers drove to the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis and asked for the stay, arguing that their appeal to prevent disclosure of the "personnel matter" would be rendered moot if The Sun and WBAL made the report public.

"In this case, the injury that would result from the denial of a stay would be irreparable and total," City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler wrote in his motion.

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