Ruling on Clark suit expected

$60 million case over commissioner's 2004 firing could go to trial

July 15, 2008|By Nick Madigan | Nick Madigan,Sun Reporter

A Baltimore Circuit Court judge is to decide today whether to let stand a $60 million lawsuit by former Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark against the city and Gov. Martin O'Malley, who, as mayor, fired Clark in 2004.

Judge Albert J. Matricciani Jr. said at the conclusion of a hearing yesterday that he would rule within 24 hours on a motion by the city for summary judgment in the case. If he rules against the city and O'Malley, the case would likely go to trial, exposing a bitter fight over the actions that led to Clark's dismissal.

"I would like to see all of it gone," said Matthew W. Nayden, who, as the city's chief solicitor, represents Baltimore and O'Malley. He said that all but one of the 10 counts in Clark's complaint had been rendered moot by appeals court rulings that declared he had no right to reinstatement in his job. The remaining count, he said, refers to Clark's contention that the manner of his dismissal was a violation of due process.

Clark was fired in November 2004 during an investigation into allegations that he had assaulted his fiancee. In his motion for summary judgment, Nayden wrote that Clark's position as police commissioner had been marred by "a public scandal."

But two attorneys for the former commissioner - A. Dwight Pettit and Neal Janey, the latter a former Baltimore police officer - said after yesterday's hearing that the real scandal was the city's "stonewalling" in the case, and O'Malley's reluctance to testify under oath as to the "real" reasons for Clark's firing.

"In this particular case," Janey said, "the mayor would have himself been a witness, because Clark had been conducting sensitive investigations of certain public officials - police and city officials - although not of O'Malley himself."

Matricciani had ruled in the city's favor once before on a motion for summary judgment, in April 2005. The judge declared at that time that O'Malley had the right to dismiss Clark. The issue was returned to Matricciani after an appeal.

Yesterday, Nayden asserted in court that Clark was entitled to no more than $75,000 in severance under the terms of his contract, and belittled Clark's contention that "he didn't believe he could be terminated under those terms."

Clark has no grounds for a multi-million-dollar payout, Nayden said, because he "agreed that he would take this severance in response to a termination."

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