Legislators seek audit on port security

October 20, 2006|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN REPORTER

Two General Assembly leaders are seeking a review of the state of security at the port of Baltimore, questioning whether state officials have made improvements since The Sun reported a series of lapses in July last year.

In a letter this week, Sen. Thomas M. Middleton and Del. Maggie McIntosh ask chief legislative auditor Bruce A. Myers to conduct a performance audit of port security as well as a financial audit of Maryland's use of state and federal homeland security funds.

Middleton, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is a Charles County Democrat. McIntosh, chairwoman of the House Environmental Matters Committee, is a Baltimore Democrat.

The two lawmakers expressed concern about the forced resignation of Officer George Tarburton Jr., a veteran of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police who brought his concerns to The Sun. While The Sun did not disclose his identity, Tarburton was identified as the source in an internal investigation and brought up on departmental charges.

Middleton and McIntosh wrote that audits at the national level have uncovered "extensive waste." They said they want to "ensure that similar problems are not affecting Maryland" and make sure Tarburton's warnings "have not gone unheeded."

Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan declined to comment on the audit request but said that the Ehrlich administration has made the port secure.

"We have made vast improvements in the homeland security at the Maryland Port Administration compared with the situation when we came into office four years ago," he said. "There is improved perimeter security. We have a state-of-the-art camera system being installed currently. We have rigorous ID requirements in place."

Flanagan declined to comment on Tarburton's termination, calling it a personnel matter.

Tarburton, who said he is scheduled to leave the force Nov. 1, said he's glad that the legislators are "trying to correct these problems." He said fellow officers have told him that "very few changes have been made" since the original article described porous fences, a lack of cameras and alarms and a shortage of officers patrolling the port at night.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

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