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Baltimore mayor lacked power to fire police commissioner, court rules

The Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md.- The mayor of Baltimore exceeded his authority when he fired the police commissioner, Maryland's second-highest court has ruled.

Mayor Martin O'Malley fired Commissioner Kevin Clark in November 2004, saying domestic abuse allegations against the commissioner, although unsubstantiated, had become a distraction to fighting crime.

Clark sued, seeking $120 million in damages and reinstatement, but a circuit court judge dismissed the lawsuit in April 2005. Clark appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, which reversed the decision Friday and sent the case back to the circuit court.

The appeals court said that Baltimore's police department is a state agency and that the mayor has limited power over it.

The suit contended that state law prohibited O'Malley from firing him unless he had demonstrated "official misconduct, malfeasance, inefficiency, incompetence or prolonged illness."

The city will appeal to Maryland's highest court, the Court of Appeals, said city solicitor Ralph Tyler.

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