xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Delegates protest closed meeting that fired Pocomoke police chief

Three Baltimore lawmakers have lodged a complaint with the state agency that enforces Maryland's open meetings law, charging that the Pocomoke City Council acted illegally behind closed doors when it fired the Eastern Shore community's African-American police chief.

Dels. Barbara Robinson, Cheryl Glenn and Jill Carter -- all city Democrats -- wrote a letter to the Open Meetings Compliance Board alleging that Mayor Bruce Morrison summoned the council to meet in secret to fire Chief Kelvin Sewell.

Advertisement

The delegates said they were writing "on behalf of the citizens of Pocomoke City."

The Pocomoke council voted 4-1 to fire Sewell, a former Baltimore police officer, June 29 for reasons Morrison would not disclose. Sewell contends he was terminated because he refused to fire two black officers who had filed discrimination complaints. The former chief's attorneys claim his firing was also based on race.

Advertisement
Advertisement

The delegates' letter pointed to an earlier complaint filed by the ACLU of Maryland alleging that the council acted illegally when it fired the chief behind closed doors. It charges that the mayor and council did not provide public notice of the meeting and did not take a required open vote to go into executive session.

"As of the writing of this letter, the Pocomoke City Solicitor conceded the lack of an open meeting to The Washington Post, in a recent article, stating the council was unaware of the law. If true, this is wholly unacceptable," the delegates wrote.

The lawmakers urged the board, an arm of the Attorney General's Office, to promptly investigate. They said that if the city council is found to have violated the law, the board should rule that the firing is void.

Sewell's supporters contend that he did an excellent job since taking the chief's post in 2011.

Advertisement

"We've learned, from residents of Pocomoke City, that Chief Sewell implemented a well-received and effective strategy of community policing that reconnected many African American residents with the police department while reducing crime to historic lows," the delegates said.

The mayor could not be reached for comment early Wednesday. The city attorney had previously denied allegations of improper action.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement