Digest

August 30, 2007

Officers win one round in medical testing case

Two Baltimore County police officers fighting to return to duty and two other officers who have also been ordered to undergo medical testing have won one round in a legal battle against Baltimore County officials.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled last week that the medical testing ordered of the four officers by Baltimore County violates protections guaranteed under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

The rulings encourage a settlement, but if one isn't reached, they clear the way for a federal lawsuit against the county, said Cole B. Weston, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4, the union representing the officers.

One of the officers, Philip Crumbacker, a 22-year police veteran who served on the department's tactical unit, was assigned to administrative duty after he experienced a seizure while driving a patrol car and crashed in 2004. He has been designated by county officials for disability retirement but has appealed that decision to the Baltimore County Board of Appeals. A decision has not been made.

During the Board of Appeals hearing last year, two officers, Jeff Ward and Detective William P. Blake III, testified that they had been allowed to return to duty after similar medical experiences, the federal court records show.

The next day, both officers were ordered to undergo medical testing, according to the court records.

"I believe, without a doubt, it was retaliation for their testimony," Weston said.

Ward, a 20-year veteran, continues to work as a school resource officer. Blake, an undercover detective with numerous awards, also continues to work in a full-duty capacity. He has filed a federal lawsuit, objecting to further medical testing.

The medical records of a fourth officer, former Lt. Michael Lauenstein, also became an issue during Crumbacker's appeal hearing, according to the court documents. Lauenstein, a 31-year police veteran, was forced into early retirement earlier this year as a result, Weston said.

"I hope the county would meet with all four of them and try to rectify the situations so that they can get back to work," Weston said.

But Donald I. Mohler III, a spokesman for the county, said the county didn't have an opportunity to present its side before the EEOC. "We're very confident we'll prevail in court," he said. "We believe this is an issue of public safety."

Laura Barnhardt

Towson

Md. senator urges ban on new homes

A state senator has called for a temporary ban on residential development in the Towson area until Baltimore County officials further study the effects of a population increase.

James Brochin, a Democrat who represents the Towson area, sent a letter to County Executive James T. Smith Jr. urging the county to stop any plans for new homes in the area from going through the development process. In the letter, dated Aug. 23, Brochin points to plans for several residential towers in Towson, including a proposed 23-story building in downtown Towson.

"While I recognize that there may be a need for additional housing in the immediate area, I am also cognizant of the additional stress this development will put on the local infrastructure and neighborhood schools," Brochin wrote.

He wrote that a moratorium should be imposed until studies are conducted on the effects of growth on roads, schools and county services.

A spokesman for Smith, a Democrat, said that the county executive planned to meet with county staff to determine a response to the suggestion.

Josh Mitchell

Events or news items for the Baltimore County Digest may be submitted to baltco.news@baltsun.com. Information should be sent at least 10 days in advance of the event.

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