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On gag orders, Mayor Young believes he’s above the law

Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young speaks to a supporter following a news conference announcing a new collaboration in an effort to reduce homelessness in Baltimore last July.
Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young speaks to a supporter following a news conference announcing a new collaboration in an effort to reduce homelessness in Baltimore last July. (Julio Cortez/AP)

Trivializing important social issues. Declaring that the people are the problem. Using your legal counsel to provide cover. Acting like you’re above the law. Who am I talking about? The correct answer is Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young. If you have had your head in the sand, you may have missed some recent ugliness coming out of City Hall.

Besides sending out white van alerts and saying leadership doesn’t matter, our mayor has said he will openly disregard the law banning “gag orders” in civil settlement agreements with the city that was recently passed by City Council (“No Baltimore renaissance with gag orders still in use,” Oct. 30). Mr. Young chose not to veto the Transparency and Oversight Claims and Litigation Ordinance (19-0409) knowing that the veto would be overridden. He refused to sign the bill fearing he would be rebuking the orders of City Solicitor Andre Davis. According to Baltimore Brew, Mayor Young’s spokesman claims “the mayor can’t be in the habit of instructing a former federal Judge to ignore and break the law.”

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It seems to me that the solicitor should not be in the habit of instructing the mayor to break the law. Gag orders or non-disparagement agreements that are written into these settlements have already been found to be unconstitutional and essentially force citizens to shut their mouths about their victimization from police or other city agency employees. Unfortunately, getting any criminal recourse for those victimized by police brutality, in particular, is almost impossible. This is the reason that most victims turn to the civil courts. In most cases, dragging their families through the courts and being re-traumatized is so offensive that victims and their families feel compelled to take the settlement out of court.

What can you do? Call in and air your concerns to the mayor. Ask the candidates running for mayor whether they want to continue with a city solicitor who wants to stifle victims and their families. Contact your state legislator to let them know that our city needs control of our police department and that the Officer’s Bill of Rights should be abolished because police officers need to be held accountable for their actions.

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Dan Hellerbach, Baltimore

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