Officer who told of lapses in port security loses case


May 26, 2006|BY A SUN REPORTER

A police officer who provided information to The Sun about security deficiencies at the port of Baltimore lost a case yesterday in which he asked a court to throw out the most serious disciplinary charges he faces as a result of his disclosures.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Stuart R. Berger ruled that the Maryland Transportation Authority Police can proceed with its plans to bring Officer George Tarburton Jr. before a trial board.

Tarburton faces charges that could result in disciplinary action, including firing.

The officer said he sought to expose the security lapses, which included fences in ill repair and a lack of working cameras and alarms, because he thought that was the only way they would be corrected.

"I still feel good about what I did. I don't believe I did anything wrong," he said.

The transportation police learned that Tarburton was an unidentified source for The Sun several days after an article in July detailed continuing security lapses at the port almost four years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Tarburton was stripped of his badge and police powers and was put on limited duty. His disciplinary action was stayed while he pursued a claim in Circuit Court that his First Amendment rights had been violated.

"It is a delicate balance test when dealing with police and First Amendment rights and sensitive information," said Michael Marshall, Tarburton's lawyer.

Marshall said the next step in Tarburton's defense will be an attempt to change the composition of the trial board to include members from agencies besides the transportation police.

The agency contends that Tarburton should have filed forms reporting the security lapses. Tarburton said such filings by other officers were routinely ignored.

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