Clark asks for repeal of severance

Ousted police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark wants $120 million from the city that fired him. What he doesn't want, at least for the time being, is the $75,000 that Baltimore's Board of Estimates gave him last week.

Concerned that the money would be construed as a settlement of Clark's wrongful termination lawsuit, Clark's lawyers have asked the board to rescind the $75,000 severance payment it approved Jan. 12.

"There have been no settlements with respect to his termination," a Jan. 13 letter from lawyers Stuart O. Simms, A. Dwight Pettit and Neal M. Janey states. "He has not received, and does not intend to accept or retain if he does receive, any monies whatsoever purported to be a severance or settlement."

Mayor Martin O'Malley fired Clark in November, saying that domestic abuse allegations against the commissioner, while not proved, had undermined his ability to lead the department. Clark filed a $120 million lawsuit contending that his firing was illegal.

The city argues that Clark is owed $75,000 in severance, representing six months' salary, under the terms of his contract. Though the board did not describe the payment as a legal settlement, Clark's lawyers noted that a television news report did.

"Former Baltimore City police Commissioner Kevin Clark will receive a sizable check from the city as part of a settlement for his dismissal," WBAL-TV reported on its Web site Jan. 12, according to a copy of the posting that Clark's attorneys sent the city.

Replying to Clark's lawyers in a letter yesterday, City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler said the Jan. 12 vote "shall stand undisturbed."

The board's approval of the severance payment "was (and is) entirely consistent with the plain language of the employment agreement between Mr. Clark and the city," Tyler wrote. "The action that you request the board to take - namely, that the board rescind or stay the approval of the severance payment - is, by contrast, directly contrary to the plain language of the agreement."