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How we vetted the Baltimore mayor's new spokesman before her staff did

When Mayor Catherine Pugh’s office announced the resignation of her new spokesman, Darryl Strange, on Wednesday night, she explained that he had been undergoing a thorough vetting process that had not been complete when she introduced him at City Hall 10 hours earlier.

In the interim, The Baltimore Sun reported that he was involved in three lawsuits during an earlier career as a police officer, two of which were settled by the city for a total of nearly $80,000. Strange had been on the job since Monday, but The Sun found records related to the suits within hours of the announcement of his hiring.

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A search of his name in federal court records, which are publicly available online, uncovered a case from 2009 in which the owner of a check cashing business alleged Strange and another officer had arrested him wrongfully.

The city comptroller’s office maintains a database of lawsuit payouts that have come before the spending board. A search there for the name of the check cashing business revealed a $67,500 payment to settle the case in 2010.

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At a time when reforming the Baltimore Police Department is one of her top priorities, Mayor Catherine Pugh introduced as a new spokesman  a former city police officer whose alleged conduct led to three lawsuits that cost city taxpayers nearly $80,000.

A search of state court records showed two other cases from Strange’s time at the police department.

Unlike the federal system, the state’s case search program doesn’t provide electronic copies of filings, so discovering the details required a trip to the courthouse to examine the paper records.

The records revealed that a judge had awarded $12,000 to a woman who alleged Strange crashed his patrol car into her vehicle. Records show the city settled the case and the woman dismissed the claims against Strange.

Another lawsuit included allegations from a man who said Strange stopped his car wrongfully.

In both cases, lawyers who represented Strange wrote in court papers that he denied any wrongdoing.

The Sun asked Strange a series of questions about the suits that day, both on the phone and in writing.

At 7:32 p.m., Strange emailed to say he had spoken to the mayor and didn’t want to be a distraction. But his message didn’t explicitly say he was resigning. The Sun published a story about the matter online at around 7:40 p.m.

Six minutes later — at 7:46 p.m. — an official email from Pugh’s office confirmed that Strange was resigning.

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