The Maryland State Police sharply rebuked Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler on Tuesday after he called a veteran police commander a “henchman” for having documented allegations that Gansler ordered troopers assigned to him to regularly speed and run red lights even to routine appointments.
In a television interview, Gansler strongly denied the allegations and said they were part of a campaign of “dirty politics” by Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, Gansler’s chief rival for next year’s Democratic nomination for governor.
In a news release, the leadership of the state police called Gansler’s comments “unseemly and unacceptable” and said he had impugned the integrity of all troopers who provide protective services to high-ranking state officials.
Complaints by troopers that Gansler ordered them to drive with lights and sirens and to drive on the shoulder were compiled in a 2011 memo by Lt. Charles Ardolini to his superiors. When troopers balked, Gansler would often activate the emergency equipment himself, according to the police accounts, which were published over the weekend by The Washington Post.
On occasion, Gansler would drive himself, once running four red lights with lights and sirens, police said.
“Attorney General Gansler has consistently acted in a way that disregards public safety, our Troopers safety and even the law,” Ardolini wrote.
Appearing on NewsChannel 8’s “News Talk,” Gansler said, “That story was based on one of the O’Malley-Brown henchmen. The guy actually works in the governor’s mansion.”
Host Bruce DePuyt asked Gansler, a former Montgomery County state’s attorney, if he had ever asked troopers to put lights and sirens on so he wouldn’t have to sit in traffic.
“Not once,” he replied.
Gansler also told DePuyt that he couldn’t have directed the troopers to do anything because state police report to the governor, not the attorney general.
“I didn’t order them to get a ham sandwich,” Gansler said. “They don’t work for me.”
Gansler said the disclosure of Ardolini’s memo was part of a campaign being run by Brown built on “dirty politics, dirty tricks, pulling out some memo that some, you know, henchman wrote two or three years ago.”
In a statement, Brown said that “this is a matter between the State Police and the Attorney General and beyond that I don’t have any further comment.”
Lt. Col. William Pallozzi, Ardolini’s superior, said Ardolini and others in the executive protection section remain “completely unattached and unaffiliated with any political party.”
“To accuse someone in the Executive Protection Section of a politically motivated action impugns the integrity not only of that individual, but of every one of the dedicated troopers who works in this difficult and demanding assignment,” Pallozzi, chief of the support services bureau, said in a news release issued on behalf of the state police leadership.
“The concern of Lt. Ardolini was solely focused on the safety of the protectee, his troopers and the general public,” Pallozzi said.
The release, titled “State Police Stand Behind Executive Protection Troopers,” said that Ardolini’s memo “was the result of ongoing safety concerns expressed to him by his troopers.” Ardolini would have been “negligent in his duties” if he had not alerted his superiors, it said.
Pallozzi, who formerly led the executive protection section, said Ardolini’s character and commitment to the state police are “above reproach.”
In an interview, O’Malley also defended Ardolini, calling him “one of the finest and most upstanding law enforcement officers you will ever meet.” Ardolini’s service under governors from both political parties “speaks to his integrity and reputation for professional and fair dealings,” said O’Malley, who is supporting Brown’s run for governor.
In a statement released Tuesday after the criticism from the state police, Gansler’s campaign sought to play down his differences with the agency, saying that “the only disagreement he has is with the conclusions and conjecture of an internal memo.”
The campaign said Gansler “has nothing but the utmost respect for the men and women who make up the Maryland State Police, their outstanding work, and the sacrifices they make every day to protect the people of Maryland.”
Ardolini, who has served in the executive protection section for nearly 13 years, was not made available for comment Tuesday.
Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s), who on Monday was named Gansler’s running mate, said in the television interview that voters are eager to get back to talking about real issues affecting the state. Of the dispute with police, Ivey said she would “like to think that people are grown up enough to be able to see it for what it is.”
“It’s just a way for one side to try to get advantage over another — and really interesting timing,” Ivey said. “Two years after some memo, they release it just before Doug announces that I’m his lieutenant governor pick. Come on.”
The memos and e-mails of the state troopers were released to The Post in response to a request under the Maryland Public Information Act.
The state police said Tuesday that Ardolini’s conclusions were based on written statements made by seven troopers and others who provided oral reports to their superiors.
A Gansler spokesman said previously that only two or three “disgruntled drivers” had taken issue with the attorney general’s tendency to be a “back-seat driver.” The campaign said 18 troopers have been assigned to Gansler in the nearly seven years he has been attorney general.
In Tuesday’s interview, Gansler also took issue with allegations by state police that he had disregarded speeding tickets while driving the state-owned vehicle himself. The vehicle is owned by Gansler’s office, and aides say he is allowed to drive it.
The documents provided to The Post included two examples in which police said the vehicle had received a speeding citation when being driven by someone other than a trooper.
“There’s a public record to show I never got a speeding ticket, so we know that’s not true,” Gansler said.
According to the police, one incident involved a speed camera in the District, and the other came from a tollbooth in Maryland. In each case, the ticket would have been sent to the owner of the vehicle and not the driver, according to police.