- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 1, 2002

BALTIMORE Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward Norris must pay back more than $8,000 he spent on gifts and perks from a secret, off-the-books police account, according to a city investigation released Friday.
Commissioner Norris said he was responsible for the "lion's share," about $6,000, but that other staff members would have to pay back some of the money, as well.
In an independent audit, Ernst & Young recommended that the commissioner pay back $662. But the city conducted its own audit and recommended that Commissioner Norris pay back $8,263.86, said city finance director Peggy Watson. She said she did not believe there was any fraud, just misjudgments and a lack of record-keeping.
Commissioner Norris, who acknowledged spending about $178,000 from the account to fund perks for himself and his staff, said he was relieved by the audit's release.
"Thank God," said the commissioner, who was the focus for weeks of news media attention to the fund. "It's time to move on. It's time to get back to work. It's been distracting the police department."
Commissioner Norris said he complied fully with the city's investigation.
"We went over every item and discussed it at length," he said at a makeshift news conference on a Baltimore street corner. "I agreed that whatever should be reimbursed should be. I'm going to keep up my end of the bargain."
The city has not given him a deadline for payment, and he has not yet worked out how he will pay back the funds, said Commissioner Norris, who now has a corporate card for future spending.
The account evolved from three charities for which police officers in the 1920s and 1930s raised private funds to help officers in need and buy equipment for police athletic leagues. The city now controls the fund.
Over the decades, the funds were invested in stocks and grew substantially, and in the 1980s, they were consolidated into the supplemental account.
Commissioner Norris was not the first police commissioner to use the fund. In the 1990s Police Commissioner Thomas Frazier spent about $300,000 in five years, police said.
When Commissioner Norris took office, the account had topped $440,000. He spent it on perks for himself and his staff, including new jackets for officers who got cold at an Orioles baseball game. The jackets, along with the game tickets, were among the items that must be reimbursed, Commissioner Norris said.
He also spent $20,000 on trips, eight in the past year to New York, including $2,500 at Smith and Wollensky's steakhouse. Commissioner Norris said the city didn't have any problem with expensing the dinners.
Commissioner Norris initially defended his use of the account, saying that during his trips to New York, he attended seminars and met with high-ranking New York police officials to help recruit for the Baltimore Police Department. He also said the meals and trips were instrumental in raising more than $3 million for the Baltimore Police Foundation, a nonprofit group he established to help buy equipment for the force.
On Friday he said he should have dealt with the fund differently from day one. "I was told it was to be used at my discretion," he said, but in hindsight, "I should have told the Finance Department about it and saved myself a lot of headaches."


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