Ex-maitre d' drops lawsuit against Griffith


Lawyers for former Annapolis maitre d' Jeb Bello and Del. Melony Ghee Griffith agreed yesterday to a dismissal of his $3.2 million lawsuit against her, ending Bello's claim that the Prince George's County delegate unfairly portrayed him as a racist and cost him his job, then breached their secret settlement.

"The case is dismissed, and I have no comment beyond that," Anthony C. Epstein, Griffith's lawyer, said upon leaving Anne Arundel Circuit Court.

"We have agreed to say it is resolved, and we have agreed to stand by the statement of Jan. 12," in which Griffith expressed regret, said Thomas McCarthy Jr., a lawyer for Bello.

The lawyers spoke about the settlement after yesterday's conference with Judge Ronald A. Silkworth.

Bello, who is white, was fired from his job at the Maryland Inn's Treaty of Paris Restaurant after a March 3, 1999, incident in which Griffith, who is black, alleged that she and a constituent were denied service but a white couple was seated. Bello countered that Griffith was 30 minutes late for a reservation and did not want to wait for tables to be cleared.

Amid publicity and threats by legislators to boycott the restaurant, Bello was fired for rudeness. A month later Bello sued, saying that Griffith portrayed him as a bigot and made it nearly impossible for him to find work. Another Annapolis restaurant hired him as a waiter.

In the January statement, Griffith said she did not accuse Bello of racial discrimination, that publicity "obscured some basic facts and portrayed people unfairly" and expressed regret over "negative effects of this publicity" on Bello.

Shortly after that, statements that she and her lawyers made to news media indicated she was not apologizing. Bello and his lawyers said they had expected an apology.

Bello said yesterday he could not discuss the case but was glad it was over. Griffith's office referred calls to her lawyer.

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