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Council president objects to new Baltimore police spokesman's salary

Baltimore police hired a new spokesman Wednesday, but his salary of $120,000 drew the ire of City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young.

At the city's Board of Estimates meeting, Young cast the lone vote against a one-year contract for Lt. T.J. Smith, the current spokesman for Anne Arundel County police, to head up public information for the city police. The measure passed, 4-1, with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Comptroller Joan M. Pratt voting to hire Smith.

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Before the meeting, Young told fellow city officials that he believed Smith's salary was too high — and pointed out it's more than the $110,000 Young is paid. Young used an expletive to describe the salary, and angrily said he should resign to take the job.

But City Solicitor George Nilson, who is a member of the board, told Young that Smith comes highly recommended, and the communications job is crucial following April's unrest.

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The previous Baltimore police spokesman, Eric Kowalczyk, was paid $110,000.

Smith worked with interim Baltimore police commissioner Kevin Davis when he was Anne Arundel's police chief. Davis said Wednesday in a news release that Smith is a "trusted voice" in area policing. Rawlings-Blake said she "fully" supports the decision to hire Smith, calling him a "skilled communications professional."

Smith posted a message on Twitter that said he feels "blessed" by the job opportunity.

"My goal is simple: Be transparent, Highlight the phenomenal work that goes on everyday in the city, gain the trust and respect of the citizens of Baltimore and the BPD through effective and honest communication," he wrote.

Smith grew up in the northwest part of Baltimore. Both his mother and his wife are city school teachers.

Twitter.com/lukebroadwater

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