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Quick and Dirty

Gag Order

By Van Smith | Posted 6/14/2006

The U.S. Supreme Court’s May 30 ruling on a free-speech case may affect a lawsuit against the Baltimore Police Department by a lieutenant colonel who claims he was fired for recommending the force not purchase 100 new vehicles (“Retaliation Syndrome,” Mobtown Beat, April 19). In Garcetti v. Ceballos, the high court ruled that a prosecutor who tells his bosses of suspected police misconduct loses his First Amendment protection against retaliation because his message was delivered as part of his job. The decision is at least topically relevant to the Baltimore police lawsuit, filed in 2004 by former BPD lieutenant colonel Stanford Franklin.

Franklin’s lawyer, Howard B. Hoffman, writes in a June 6 e-mail to City Paper that “there will be a serious dispute in the Franklin case whether Garcetti applies” because, Hoffman contends, Franklin’s advice about the department’s fleet management was given to the mayor’s office, outside of his duties as BPD’s head of human resources.

“Indeed, the court reaffirmed that exposing governmental inefficiency is a matter of ‘considerable significance,’” Hoffman continues, and “simply stated that public employees must look to whistle-blower statutes for protection.” But, he asserts, the city’s whistle-blower law is “far too limited” to provide the necessary protection because it requires employees to report problems to the Board of Estimates, the city’s financial-control board. “Without more protection for city employees,” Hoffman concludes, “the city of Baltimore will inevitably suffer.”

The BPD public affairs office, citing its policy on matters in litigation, had no comment.

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