The Hyattsville police chief has been fired for alleged misconduct after an investigation found he ordered a city employee to baby-sit the child of a parttime police dispatcher so he could engage in a "social relationship" with the dispatcher, city officials said yesterday.
Police Chief John J. Downs was fired Monday at a special meeting of the City Council following a five-week investigation of the incident that has "hampered morale in the police department," said Lance Billingsley, the city attorney who conducted the investigation.
According to Billingsley, Downs allegedly ordered city animal warden Marie Acton to alter her payroll time card and baby-sit on city time the child of Barbara Brady, a part-time radio dispatcher.
"The situation has been going on for at least the past year or so," said Billingsley, who explained that the alleged relationship came to the city's attention after disgruntled police officers became "embarrassed" by the conduct of the two individuals."
Down's attorney, Benjamin Wolman, said he plans to ask the Prince George's County Circuit Court for an injunction to prevent Hyattsville from firing Downs because, he said, the city violated his client's rights.
Wolman, who co-authored the 1974 state law regarding lae enforcement officers' rights, said Hyattsvile officials have clearly violated the law by not informing Downs of the charges against him.
Although the Hyattsville city attorney says Downs was informed of the charges, Wolman contends neither he nor his client has received any document concerning the charges or the firing.
"My client has not been given a hearing and there has been no finding of wrong doing," said Wolman, who added that he was "a little surprised that the city attorney and the City Council aren't more familiar with the state law."
Downs was suspended with pay July 26 soon after the investigation started, according to Robert Johnson, the city manager.
Johnson said Brady has been fired from the 28-member police force and he is now determining what disciplinary action will be taken against Acton. Neither Acton nor Brady could be reached for comment yesterday.
"We are not going to immediately hire a new police chief," said Johnson, "because Downs still has a number of options available to him."
Johnson said a special City Council meeting was called Monday at the request of the city attorney who had completed the investigation on Downs. He said that a few Council members abstained during the vote but that no one voted to retain Downs.
Downs had been a member of the Hyattsville police force for six years. Prior to that, he served 10 years on the University of Maryland's police force.
Downs, who was contacted yesterday, referred all questions about his dismissal to his attorney. Downs has denied all of the charges against him.