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Ex-city chief of police loses suit

Former Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark lost his lawsuit against Mayor Martin O'Malley yesterday, derailing the fired commander's attempt to collect $120 million and return to his job.

City Circuit Judge Albert J. Matricciani Jr. issued a declaratory judgment in favor of the city, potentially ending the messy legal battle between the one-time crime-fighting allies. Clark could appeal the ruling but has not decided on a course of action, his attorney said yesterday.

O'Malley dismissed Clark on Nov. 10, saying that allegations of domestic abuse, although unsubstantiated, had eroded the commissioner's ability to lead. Clark was replaced by Leonard D. Hamm.

"I'm glad that this matter is resolved and the Police Department doesn't have this distraction," City Solicitor Ralph Tyler said after yesterday's 30-minute hearing. "The new police commissioner can proceed as the city needs him to do."

A week after being fired in November, Clark filed suit against O'Malley and the City Council, claiming that he had been wrongfully terminated. The lawsuit included behind-the-scenes disclosures about a high-ranking city official and expletive-filled wireless messages from O'Malley to Clark. One judge likened it to a "dime novel."

But yesterday's hearing focused on far less colorful matters of contract law.

Clark attorney Stuart O. Simms argued that at least parts of Clark's contract with the city were void because they were at odds with local law. Specifically, he stated that O'Malley could not fire Clark as he can fire other top city officials who serve at his discretion.

Matricciani disagreed in a brief verbal decision from the bench.

Simms said he contacted Clark, who did not attend the hearing, and informed him of the decision. He said the former New York City commander who came to Baltimore in 2003 would decide "shortly" whether to appeal. He declined to say whether Clark has found new employment.

In November, Clark had sought immediate reinstatement to his job, but Circuit Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan ruled against him and compared the lawsuit to a bad novel. The case continued winding its way through the legal system.

Clark's lawsuit alleged that O'Malley fired him while the commissioner was investigating labor commissioner and O'Malley confidant Sean Malone over pornography found on Malone's city computer. The computer had been stolen from Malone's house and recovered by detectives.

The lawsuit also attempted to portray O'Malley as a meddling mayor and included quotes from wireless messages, such as one the mayor sent Clark in September. The message came as Clark was launching internal affairs investigations of officers who responded to a domestic dispute in April at his house. O'Malley articulated several concerns, including the timing of the investigations.

"It comes at a really bad ... time in our crime rate," O'Malley wrote, according to the lawsuit.

Based on the city's interpretation of Clark's contract, he was paid for 45 days after his firing and the city sent him a severance check for six months' salary, or $75,000. Clark has refused to accept that check.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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