By Bryan Sears
A attorney for Baltimore County, in an email, writes that federal agencies have unjustly “hounded and harassed” the county.
Baltimore County officials believe a recent spate of federal investigations that have gone against the county is driven by bias rather than evidence.
The claims are part of an email written by Paul Mayhew, an assistant Baltimore County attorney. The message was sent to a private list of other county government litigators in Maryland. The Maryland State Bar Association manages the list.
“For the last five years or so we have been hounded and harassed by the EEOC and the DOJ,” Mayhew wrote in the April 4 email. [A copy of the email is attached to this story.]
Baltimore County Attorney Michael Field confirmed that the email, obtained by Patch from a source who requested anonymity, was authentic.
“We don’t feel like we get anything close to a fair shake,” Baltimore County Attorney Michael Field said in an interview Tuesday.
Mayhew writes that the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice have engaged in what the county believes is a practice of unfairly targeting the county in disabilities cases. He adds that the federal agencies “aided and abetted” private attorneys representing former county employees who were suing the county.
Mayhew provided a bullet point list of complaints:
- The agencies conduct “shabby, results oriented ‘investigations.'”
- Routinely find probable cause that the county violated federal law while making no reference to evidence or “ignoring or twisting any evidence contrary to their predetermined conclusions.”
- Routinely offering the county an option to settle the cases with agreements “demanding on average $100,000 in compensation—often in cases where the employee has suffered no actual financial harm.
Mayhew goes on to ask if anyone else has been subject to similar treatment.
In an interview, Field said the email was written out of frustration and anger after the county received nearly a dozen more adverse determinations from the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.
“What drove [the email] was a measure of ‘I don’t mind if you tell me what I did was wrong but tell me why,'” Field said, adding that “it seems to be out there that we can never do anything right.”
Field said those new determinations were not yet public and declined to discuss the cases or specific findings.
The county’s troubles began in earnest when a federal jury ruled in favor of William Blake, a county police detective who was forced undergo medical tests after he testified on behalf of another officer who had a seizure. The jury awarded him $225,000 in damages even though he suffered no financial losses.
In Mayhew’s email, the county attorney complains that federal attorneys helped private attorneys in their lawsuits against the county. Field acknowledged that the email was directly referencing communications between attorneys for the federal government and Blake’s attorney, Kathleen Cahill.
Field said, despite the inferences of wrong doing hinted at in Mayhew’s message, the emails to and from Cahill were not “material as a legal matter.”
“I don’t know if it’s unusual,” Field said. “It’s disturbing.”
Since the Blake case, the county has been the subject of a number of federal investigations and lawsuits.
In December, William Galanti, a 30-year employee of the county’s highways bureau, filed suit against the county claiming the county violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it forced him into retirement. The case resulted in changes made to pension appeals that used to go before the county Board of Appeals.
In October, the county lost a discrimination lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission over practices in its pension system.
In August, the county settled 10 cases in a consent decree with the Department of Justice. The agreement included $500,000 in damages to the 10 involved as well as three years of monitoring by the federal government.
Three other people who did not settle in the consent decree have filed suit against the county.
Field said that even though the Department of Justice is mentioned in Mayhew’s email he believes the county has a good relationship with the agency.
“I’m happy with where we are with the DOJ following the consent decree,” Field said.
In February, the Department of Justice began an investigation into possible discriminatory hiring practices related to minorities in the police and fire departments.