- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 11, 2009

BALTIMORE | Maryland’s second-highest court has thrown out appeals filed by former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark, the latest setback in Mr. Clark’s long and mostly unsuccessful legal battle against the city since his 2004 firing.

Mr. Clark sued the city after he was fired by Mayor Martin O’Malley, who said an investigation into a domestic violence claim against the commissioner had become a distraction. Mr. Clark claimed he was fired illegally and sought reinstatement.

The lawsuits and appeals, in both state and federal courts, have outlasted both the mayoral tenure of Mr. O’Malley, who was elected governor in 2006, and the term Mr. Clark agreed to serve as police commissioner, which expired last year.

Mr. Clark scored a minor victory in March 2008 when the state’s highest court ruled that parts of his contract with the city violated state law. The contract language in question authorized the mayor to fire the police commissioner without cause.

But a city judge refused to reinstate Mr. Clark, and the Court of Special Appeals upheld that decision in an opinion filed Wednesday. The court also found that Mr. Clark wasn’t entitled to any damages beyond the severance pay that he’s already received. The contract language related to Mr. Clark’s severance remains valid, and Mr. Clark is bound by those contract terms, the court found.

The General Assembly has since passed a law allowing Baltimore’s mayor to fire the police commissioner for any reason.

Matthew W. Nayden, a city attorney, said he was pleased with the appeals court’s opinion.

Mr. Clark’s attorney, A. Dwight Pettit, said he would appeal to Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, which would be under no obligation to hear the case.

“We feel the opinion is totally wrong as a matter of law,” Mr. Pettit said.

An appeal of Mr. Clark’s federal lawsuit, which alleged that Mr. Clark’s firing was racially motivated, remains pending in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mr. Clark was never charged with domestic violence as a result of the investigation that Mr. O’Malley cited in firing him. Mr. Clark has suggested that his questioning of the city’s crime statistics was the true reason he was let go.

Mr. O’Malley ran for mayor on a zero-tolerance crime-fighting platform and claimed double-digit reductions in violent crime.

The appeals court also rejected an appeal filed by Mr. Clark’s wife, Natasha, who had sought to intervene in the case to prevent court documents related to the domestic violence probe from becoming public. Because Mr. Clark’s appeal was rejected and there will be no trial, the records will remain under seal, and Mrs. Clark’s desire to intervene is moot, the court found.

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