Baltimore mayor's new spokesman resigns on first day after questions about legal settlements arise

On Wednesday morning Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh introduced her new spokesman at City Hall and posed with him for a photograph.

By Wednesday evening Darryl Strange was gone. He resigned after The Baltimore Sun asked about three lawsuits from Strange’s five-year career as a Baltimore police officer.

Pugh confirmed that she had accepted Strange’s resignation in a statement late Wednesday. The mayor said he was still in the process of being vetted when she announced his hiring.

“As for anyone who applies to work at City Hall and particularly in a senior role, there is an extensive vetting process that takes time to complete,” Pugh said in the statement. “This process was still underway for Mr. Strange, who having worked as a senior communications officer in government, began in the communications department here at City Hall this past Monday.”

Pugh introduced Strange to reporters Wednesday morning and touted his credentials as a former police officer and a “very proud resident of Baltimore City.”

Strange’s career as a city police officer between 2006 and 2011 led to three lawsuits that cost city taxpayers nearly $80,000. City and court records show Strange’s tenure at the police department involved two legal payouts and a third allegation of wrongdoing during a traffic stop.

The city’s spending board approved a $67,500 settlement in 2010 to resolve a complaint in which the owner of a check cashing store on North Avenue alleged that he was wrongfully arrested by Strange and another officer. And in 2008 a Baltimore judge awarded $12,000 to a woman who alleged that Strange crashed his squad car into her vehicle, court records show. The woman dropped her claims against Strange when the judge ordered the city to pay the money, court records show.

In a telephone interview, Strange said he never admitted to any wrongdoing in the settled case and declined to comment further. He later asked for questions in writing. He said in an email that he left the department in “good standing” and was proud of his time at the police department. Strange left the agency in May 2011 and worked most recently as communications director for the state’s social services agency in Baltimore.

Minutes before Pugh announced Strange’s departure, he gave a third response by email.

“First I want to thank the Mayor for the opportunity to serve as her Press Secretary,” he wrote. “At this time I do not want to be a distraction to the administration and have had this conversation with the Mayor. I will never regret the time I spent in the police department.”

In 2009, Ronald Waltemeyer, the owner of the check cashing business, alleged in a lawsuit that he was having a dispute with a customer when Strange came into the store, shoved him against a wall and handcuffed him.

Strange accused Waltemeyer of resisting arrest, according to court records.

Waltemeyer could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Strange, 37, was also the subject of a lawsuit in 2008. Paul Grant, a Baltimore man, alleged that he was driving his wife and their 5-day-old daughter to a hospital appointment when Strange pulled him over for an alleged traffic violation. Grant said Strange had no cause to stop him, and accused him of profiling him.

Grant said Strange told him: “If you saw a knucklehead that looked like you, driving a big black Mercedes, you would have stopped him too.”

Grant was arrested and taken to jail, but ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing.The civil lawsuit “was resolved,” Grant’s lawyer said. Online court records state that both sides stipulated to the case’s permanent dismissal.

Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.

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