Wednesday, July 26, 2006

BALTIMORE — A former police commissioner suing the city says he can implicate an associate of Mayor Martin O’Malley in a 2004 plot that entrapped Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s administration in a rumor-mongering scandal.

Kevin P. Clark, who is suing over being fired in November 2004, says he lost his job, in part because a police probe of a city-owned laptop stolen from Baltimore Labor Commissioner Sean R. Malone threatened to expose Mr. Malone’s link to the scandal.

“We received information … that there was information on the computer regarding a group called MD4Bush,” said Neal M. Janey Sr., a lawyer for Mr. Clark, whose lawsuit has been winding through the courts for nearly two years. “The information about MD4Bush just came up a week ago.”

MD4Bush is the alias of a visitor to the conservative Web site who in October 2004 enticed Ehrlich aide Joseph F. Steffen Jr. into spreading rumors about Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat running for governor this year against Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican.

Mr. Steffen’s e-mail exchanges with MD4Bush were published in The Washington Post in February 2005. It caused a political uproar that spawned an investigation of the Ehrlich administration — the General Assembly’s first of someone outside the legislature in more than 25 years.

MD4Bush later was shown to be associated with an e-mail address of Ryan O’Doherty at the Maryland Democratic Party. Mr. O’Doherty, who has ties to Mr. O’Malley, worked as the party’s communications director at the time.

Mr. Janey said that the mayor’s firing of Mr. Clark stopped the search of the laptop hard drive before police found the MD4Bush data. The new information about the hidden data, he said, came from an anonymous source who demonstrated intimate knowledge of the computer’s contents.

Mr. O’Malley maintains that he fired Mr. Clark because domestic violence accusations, albeit unproved, undermined Mr. Clark’s authority.

A Baltimore Circuit Court judge dismissed Mr. Clark’s wrongful-termination suit last year but the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reinstated the case last month.

The computer, which was turned over to City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler in 2004, should have been preserved as evidence during the appeals process. Mr. Tyler yesterday did not return calls seeking comment.

A letter Mr. Janey recently sent to City Hall demanded the continued preservation of the computer evidence and advised the mayor of the new MD4Bush contention, which was reported Tuesday by WBAL-TV in Baltimore.

Mr. Clark’s lawsuit originally said Mr. O’Malley fired him to cover up that police found pornography stored on the laptop. Baltimore Police Department investigators searched the hard drive when they recovered the computer after it was stolen from Mr. Malone’s home in October 2004.

Mr. Malone, who has acknowledged saving pornographic pictures on the computer, said yesterday the laptop contained no reference to MD4Bush.

“I’m not MD4Bush,” he said. “I don’t know who MD4Bush is.”

Skeptics of the story point out that the computer was stolen from Mr. Malone’s home Oct. 4, 2004, which was before the MD4Bush account was created at and MD4Bush’s first posting on the Internet message board Oct. 15, 2004.

Still, any reference to MD4Bush at such an early date would seemingly indicate foreknowledge of the plot.

Ehrlich spokesman Henry P. Fawell said the governor looks forward to resolving the entire incident. “The sooner certain Baltimore city officials and the Maryland Democratic Party admit their role in all this, the sooner we can get on to issues that matter, like education and the economy,” he said.

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