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Maryland Transportation Authority police officers have lost their effort to force state officials to provide them with take-home cars after the state's highest court ruled that an agreement they made in the final year of the Ehrlich administration was not enforceable.

The Court of Appeals handed the victory Monday to the O'Malley administration, which stopped the take-home vehicle program in 2007, just as it was about to start.

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"Basically, they said that the authority gave us an unenforceable piece of paper," said Shane Schapiro, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 34, which represents the 515 officers. "Officers were hired under the pretense that they would get take-home cars."

The court unanimously ruled that state officials were not bound by a 2006 deal in which the union had agreed to take-home cars in exchange for not seeking collective bargaining rights at the General Assembly that year.

The program was to have been phased in over three years at estimated cost of $3.8 million a year.

David Paulson, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, said the attorneys were pleased with the ruling.

The Attorney General's Office argued for the MdTA in its legal briefs that a valid agreement did not exist because the contract was contrary to state law.

Police have previously pointed to the politics of the situation in 2006, when the union backed Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. for governor. Martin O'Malley won. A spokesman for the governor has said that did not figure into the decision.

The decision to cut the MDTA take-home car program came around the same time that O'Malley restricted the use of state-owned vehicles in general.

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