Democratic gubernatorial candidate Douglas F. Gansler denied Tuesday reports that he routinely told his state police drivers to speed and run red lights, calling the head of the unit that protects high-ranking officials a "henchman" of Gov. Martin O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown.
Gansler, who as attorney general is the state's highest-ranking law enforcement official, called a Washington Post article based on Maryland State Police documents "100 percent, completely untrue."
The attorney general's comments about Lt. Charles Ardolini, head of the executive protection unit, brought an unusually blunt response in which a top state police official called the remarks ""unseemly and unacceptable."
Lt. Col. William Pallozzi, chief of the Support Services Bureau, rejected the suggestion that Ardolini was playing politics.
"To accuse someone in the Executive Protection Section of a politically motivated action impugns the integrity not only of that individual, but of every one of the dedicated troopers who works in this difficult and demanding assignment," Pallozzi said in a statement Tuesday.
The police rebuttal came after Gansler went on News Channel 8 in Washington to introduce his new running mate, Prince George's County Del. Jolene Ivey. Gansler was asked about an article Sunday in The Washington Post about unsafe driving in his state-owned SUV.
Gansler said the Post reporter wrote an article though he "knew it was untrue." The attorney general blamed Brown, his chief rival for the 2014 nomination, and O'Malley, who supports Brown, for the release of the documents in which troopers complained about Gansler's demands.
"They're running a campaign about dirty politics, dirty tricks, pulling out some memo that some ... henchman wrote two or three years ago and saying, 'Look, Gansler's misusing troopers somehow,' " Gansler said.
Gansler made it clear he was referring directly to Ardolini when he used the word "henchman."
"His office is actually ... in the governor's mansion," Gansler said.
State police spokesman Greg Shipley said the location of Ardolini's office did not signify any unusual closeness between the lieutenant and O'Malley. Shipley said the heads of executive protection have had a command center in Government House since the early 1970s.
Shipley said Ardolini's memo was based on the written reports of seven officers from Gansler's security detail and the verbal recollections of others. He said submitting a false report would be a violation of policy and a firing offense.
O'Malley released a statement Tuesday in which he defended Ardolini as "one of the finest and most upstanding law enforcement officers you will ever meet." Brown campaign manager Justin Schall declined to comment.
Ardolini was the author of a December 2011 memo to Pallozzi — released as a result of a public records request — reporting a pattern of "disregard for public safety" by Gansler, including "ordering" troopers to use the shoulders of roads to get around backups.
Gansler contended that he never gave orders to police drivers because he has no authority to do so. His recollections conflict with Ardolini's and with those of troopers in the security unit.
The differences are apparent in the accounts of a December 2011 incident in which Gansler's vehicle used the shoulder to get past a traffic backup on Interstate 97 while O'Malley's vehicle waited in the jam.
Gansler said Tuesday that he didn't order his driver to use the shoulder and was reading when that occurred. A state police memo says the driver told Ardolini that Gansler instructed him to drive up the shoulder while using lights and sirens.
Gansler campaign spokesman Bob Wheelock said the trooper's recollection is inaccurate. However, the spokesman backed away from Gansler's use of the term henchman.
"Was it the best choice of words? No," Wheelock said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun