Jews is set back in pursuit of $18 million severance
William L. Jews, the former CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield chief executive who was fired in 2006, suffered a setback yesterday in his effort to reinstate his $18 million severance package. The U.S. District Court declined to hear a case in which Jews challenged Maryland Insurance Commissioner Ralph Tyler's decision to cut Jews' benefits to $9 million. Tyler argued that a 2003 state law required executive pay for the nonprofit to meet a "fair and reasonable" standard. Jews brought the lawsuit in August, but U.S. District Court Judge Benson Everett Legg abstained from ruling in the case and then dismissed it. Jews' attorney, Andrew Graham, said Jews had not decided whether to appeal the federal court decision. The second case, being heard in Baltimore County Circuit Court, was put on hold until the federal judge ruled. Graham would not comment on the significance of the ruling. Tyler was not available for comment. Jews' pay drew criticism from state legislators several years ago when he tried to convert CareFirst, the area's largest insurer, into a for-profit entity and sell it to a California company. Jews would have netted millions of dollars, an issue that helped kill the deal. Tyler found that the compensation Jews was to receive was not reasonable given the company's nonprofit status. Jews left the company in 2006 and was supposed to receive his salary for two years because he agreed not to join any competitor of the insurance company.
AirTran jet returns to BWI after possible problem
A commercial passenger jet that had reported a possible nosegear problem touched down safely yesterday at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. AirTran Airways Flight 149 returned to BWI just after noon, then taxied to a gate, according to airport spokesmen. AirTran spokesman Tad Hutcheson said the Boeing 737 took off from BWI at 11:08 a.m. with five crew members and 133 passengers, including two infants. Hutcheson said the flight crew reported seeing an indicator that the nosegear did not retract after take off. The plane did a low fly-by of the airport tower, and officials could see that the gear was up, Hutcheson said. The captain did not declare an in-flight emergency but returned to BWI for maintenance. Fire and rescue teams responded to the airfield and waited for the jet to land while it circled to burn fuel. Mechanics were inspecting the plane to determine whether the indicator light was faulty or there was a nosegear problem. Hutcheson said the plane was making its first flight after a maintenance check Thursday night at the airport.
Mayor names Stosur to head planning agency
Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon named Thomas J. Stosur director of the Department of Planning, a $3.8 million agency, yesterday. He will start in an acting capacity Feb. 9 and is subject to confirmation by the City Council. The planning agency oversees all the physical development in the city, including Baltimore's $400 million capital improvement budget. Stosur said yesterday that he hopes to use the position to push the mayor's environmental agenda. Dixon initially hired Stosur, 46, in March 2007 as assistant deputy mayor for neighborhood and economic development, where he was responsible for the Department of Recreation and Parks, Department of Public Works and school facilities. He replaces acting planning department director Gary W. Cole, who will remain as a deputy with the department.
Two-alarm blaze injures firefighter, another man
A two-alarm fire in the 1800 block of N. Wolfe St. last night caused minor injuries to a firefighter and sent another man to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center with burns to his head, said Kevin Cartwright, a spokesman for the city Fire Department. The fire was reported about 7:30 p.m., and flames were seen coming out of a second-floor apartment when engines arrived, Cartwright said. The first floor is a corner store, although, the spokesman said, it was unclear whether the store is operating. The firefighter was cut on the head when charred debris fell on his neck and back. He was treated at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. Neither the firefighter nor the other man was identified. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
New EPA rules might cut Carroll mercury pollution
Airborne mercury pollution from a Carroll County cement plant could be reduced under promised new regulations, an environmental group announced yesterday. The Environmental Protection Agency has pledged to propose new limits on emissions of mercury and other hazardous pollutants from 150 cement kilns nationwide, including the Lehigh plant at Union Bridge, according to Earthjustice, which had sued the agency. Under a settlement agreement signed this week, EPA said it would propose regulations by the end of March and make them final within the next year, after weighing public comments. The Lehigh plant reported releasing 376 pounds of mercury into the air in 2007, according to federal data, a 10-fold increase from the emissions it reported the year before. Exposure to mercury can damage the human nervous system, and young children are particularly vulnerable, even to low doses. Methylmercury, a form of the toxic metal, is found in a wide variety of freshwater and ocean-going fish. Because of contamination found in several species of Maryland fish, pregnant women and young children are warned to limit consumption of them.
Timothy B. Wheeler