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The Nose

The Commish

Posted 12/25/2002

Talk has filled the streets and the airwaves, from both the in-the-dark television reports and the know-it-all philosophers of talk radio, about the sudden stunning departure of city Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris to the greener--and infinitely less political--pastures of the Maryland State Police. Speculation about the real reasons for Norris' swift exit has run rampant: He'd done all he could do to stem the crime rate; he was really a Republican (which he is) who secretly supported Gov.-elect Robert Ehrlich over Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and felt more comfortable with him than Democratic Mayor Martin O'Malley; that he was stabbing the mayor in the back because hizzoner had focused his entire political future around crime and Norris.But a highly placed source tells the Nose that the real reason Norris was so desperate to escape is that the commish was frustrated, infuriated, and enraged by O'Malley's micromanagement of the police department through his former campaign manager, Sean Malone.

Malone's singular qualification to hold the civilian equivalent of the rank of colonel would seem to be his loyalty to O'Malley. Hired as the department's head lawyer when O'Malley took office in December 1999, Malone had practiced law for about three years, all of them with the Baltimore County State's Attorney's Office. In July Malone, who is widely viewed by O'Malley critics as the mayor's pit bull, was promoted to Chief of Professional Standards, a position created for him, overseeing the department's Equal Employment office, Inspections section, and Internal Affairs.

Norris, says our highly placed source, was being driven crazy by interference. He was constantly looking over his shoulder because he knew everything he did was monitored by O'Malley and his henchman, Malone. The commish started looking for another job last March, when he was interviewed for the top police job in Philadelphia (The Nose, March 27).

Ehrlich's offer of the state police job to Norris was a life preserver thrown to a man who felt himself drowning in a sea of politics, says the source. The job pays around $2,000 less than he now makes. And he won't get the $100,000 "golden handcuffs" pension bonus O'Malley's Board of Estimates voted to give him in July, because it required him to stay through 2004. His contract specifies, however, that if he leaves at any time for any reason, he will get $137,000 severance pay.

"I just don't believe that to be the case, I don't believe that to be true," O'Malley says of the allegations that Norris is leaving because of the mayor's interference. "He often boasted he had my complete support.

"I think his angst with Sean which he expressed was related to. . . ." the mayor trailed off, then added, "Sean's a very honest person and expresses his opinions very openly." O'Malley says Malone was among those consulted by Norris about the job switch: "Sean encouraged him to go." But for anyone who knows those involved, it's hard to believe Norris would ever ask Malone for personal advice, since, our source says, he loathes Malone.

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