A Baltimore reporter has sued the city's top Police Department spokesman, saying the spokesman had a private grudge against her and withheld public information in violation of her First Amendment rights.
Terrie Snyder, a free-lance reporter for WBFF-TV and City Paper, filed the federal lawsuit Tuesday against Samuel J. Ringgold Jr., director of public information.
News organizations often go to court to force officials to release information. But it is unusual for a journalist to sue an official without challenging the city or public agency involved, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Washington.
"I wouldn't comment on it except to say that I would consider this to be pretty frivolous," Mr. Ringgold said.
Efforts to reach Ms. Snyder were unsuccessful. Her lawyer, Thomas J. Althauser, said it was against the policy of his law firm, Eccleston and Wolf, to comment on pending cases.
Ms. Snyder claims that Mr. Ringgold took a dislike to her after a 1992 story on a slaying that she reported for WBAL-TV. In her report, she noted that officials had given her incomplete information. She suggested that they might be trying to protect a politician.
The next year brought more problems, after police gave Mr. Ringgold's department sole responsibility for issuing homicide information to reporters.
On weekends, as an assignment editor for WBAL and WBFF, Ms. Snyder continued to have conflicts with Mr. Ringgold, the suit contends. He said she incessantly paged him and others on call; she said she paged him only when she could obtain information no other way, according to court records.
Mr. Ringgold wrote a letter to WBAL in May 1994, criticizing an article by Ms. Snyder in a local newspaper. Shortly afterward, WBAL fired Ms. Snyder, citing inability to work with sources as a reason, the suit says.