When Anne Arundel Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan intervened last month after the arrest of fire Lt. Patrick C. Gilligan, son of a former county councilman, he was helping more than a politically connected lawyer and friend of the county executive.
The father, Michael F. Gilligan, represented the chief's 21-year-old son earlier this year after he was charged with disorderly conduct by Annapolis police, court records show.
Shanahan's action - releasing the 38-year-old veteran firefighter without a bail hearing and holding off the formal filing of a burglary charge - has brought criticism from the department ranks for its appearance of political favoritism.
The chief has said he intervened so that Gilligan, placed in his father's care, could obtain an immediate medical evaluation and alcohol treatment after his arrest in connection with a break-in attempt at an elderly Pasadena neighbor's house.
It was the younger Gilligan's third arrest - and the second in two days - in connection with incidents linked to alcohol, and all were followed by his release without the bail hearing before a District Court commissioner that is routine in most cases.
The others entailed charges of drunken driving.
In June, Michael Gilligan represented Bryan Michael Shanahan in the case stemming from an incident in early March in which city police alleged he had been acting in a "disorderly manner" on Main Street.
The misdemeanor charge was placed on an inactive docket June 16 by a District Court judge - a common outcome in such cases that allows it to be dropped if there is no other criminal violation in a year's time.
Annapolis Police Chief Joseph S. Johnson said yesterday that the elder Shanahan had never contacted him or any other city officer about his son's case.
Shanahan declined to comment yesterday.
His spokesman, Sgt. Joseph E. Jordan, said, "He's not going to discuss matters involving his 21-year-old son, who lives outside the home and is responsible for his own affairs."
In response to the criticism of Shanahan's action on behalf of the Gilligans, the county police chief has said he had only a professional relationship with Michael Gilligan.
While the elder Gilligan's representation of the chief's son does not contradict that statement, some critics say it furthers the appearance of favoritism and impropriety.
Others, however, say it is an example of Shanahan's integrity that he pulled no strings to have his son's charge dropped - and that if he didn't interfere in his son's case, he would not do anything to intentionally interfere in someone else's.
Shanahan has not responded to criticism from County Council members, the Fraternal Order of Police, or some officers who last week anonymously wrote to the county Ethics Commission asking for a review of his involvement in Gilligan's case.
Last month, shortly after Patrick Gilligan's release, Shanahan explained that he did what he thought was right by making it possible for a longtime county employee to get alcohol treatment and to ensure he wouldn't be out on the streets, jeopardizing public safety.
"I left the station that night feeling like we helped someone," he said.
But some officers were angered when Shanahan and his acting deputy chief allowed Patrick Gilligan to go with his father for treatment, because it delayed for several days the filing of a misdemeanor burglary charge and allowed him to bypass the bail hearing.