A prominent workers’ compensation lawyer resigned Wednesday from a new legislative panel investigating the corrupt Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force after revelations he had represented three of the convicted detectives in injury claims.
Attorney Mitchel Gordon, a former city police officer, stepped down over the appearance of conflict, said Jake Weissmann, spokesman for state Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller. The Senate president’s office had submitted Gordon’s name for the panel.
To replace Gordon, Miller appointed James Robey, a former state senator, Howard County executive and police chief.
“Senator Robey is one of the most thoughtful, hardworking, and respected individuals I have ever served with,” Miller said in an announcement about the appointment. “He is well-respected on both sides of the aisle and has a well-earned reputation for fairness.”
Robey joins the seven-member panel tasked with investigating the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force. Eight officers from the rogue squad were sentenced to prison terms as long as 25 years after a federal wiretap investigation found they had been robbing citizens for years. Some of the officers dealt drugs they had seized off the street and committed home invasions.
Gordon had represented at least three convicted detectives — Momodu Gondo, Daniel Hersl and Jemell Rayam — in the injury claims.
The attorney didn’t tell the Senate president’s office that he had represented the detectives. But Gordon said he didn’t believe the work would impair his ability to be impartial.
“My representation of the three officers on the GTTF predated the indictment, and it was for workers comp cases only,” he said Wednesday.
Still, Gordon said he wanted to avoid any perceived conflict.
“I don’t want to take away from the credibility of the panel,” he said.
Robey served as a Howard County police officer from 1966 to 1991, then as the department’s chief of police from 1991 to 1998, according to the Senate president’s office. Robey served as county executive from 1998 to 2006, then as a state senator from 2007 to 2015.
The legislative commission will issue a preliminary report at the end of the year, but most of its work is expected to take place next year. The members are authorized to call witnesses to testify and compel the production of written and electronic records. They are not being paid.
The panel has subpoena power and is expected to hold public hearings on how the officers’ misconduct was able to flourish without accountability prior to the federal racketeering indictments. Unlike police internal investigations, which continue to be shielded under state law, its findings will be public.
The members must provide a preliminary report to the governor and General Assembly by the end of this year. A final report is due by the end of 2019.