Appeals court reinstates ex-police chief's suit

July 01, 2006|By CHRIS YAKAITIS

The state's second-highest court reinstated yesterday a lawsuit filed by former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark alleging that he was wrongfully fired by Mayor Martin O'Malley, who said allegations of domestic abuse had eroded the chief's ability to lead.

In a 41-page opinion, the Court of Special Appeals overturned an April 4, 2005, judgment in favor of the city. Clark is seeking $120 million in damages and his job back.

The court ruled yesterday that a circuit judge erred when he ruled that the city's contract with Clark was "valid and enforceable." The appeals court found that the mayor could not terminate Clark because the terms of his contract were in conflict with state law.

"As a matter of law, the Mayor was not entitled to summary judgment based on the invalid terms of the [memorandum of understanding]" drawn up between the commissioner and the city, Judge James A. Kenney III wrote for the panel.

City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler said yesterday that the mayor and city "respectfully disagree" with the appeals court's ruling and that the city intends to appeal to the state's highest court.

He said Clark's contract was not in conflict with state law. He said Clark, with representation by counsel, "voluntarily bargained and agreed to a termination without cause provision" and worked under the terms of the contract for an extended period of time and received a "substantial salary."

"We believe he cannot, when things turn sour, challenge that one provision in the contract," Tyler said.

Neal M. Janey, Clark's attorney, could not be reached yesterday to comment.

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