MARYLAND

Baltimore Police Commissioner on Leave

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark stepped down from his job temporarily yesterday, a police spokesman said last night, after he became embroiled in a domestic dispute over the weekend in which his fiancee told police that he assaulted her.

Clark is taking a leave of absence until next week. The alleged incident is being probed by Howard County police, whom Baltimore police asked to investigate. Clark has said he did nothing wrong and did not assault his fiancee, Blanca Gerena.

Gerena left Clark's north Baltimore apartment after an argument early Saturday and told an officer, "He assault me," a police report said.

Clark, a former New York police commander, was appointed to the Baltimore job in January 2003 by Mayor Martin O'Malley after Edward T. Norris quit the post to become superintendent of the Maryland State Police. Norris pleaded guilty in March to federal corruption charges.

Utility Chairman Denies Request for Lawyer

A power struggle at the five-member Maryland Public Service Commission grew more heated yesterday when the utility commission's chairman denied a request by three other members to hire their own attorney.

The trio sought to hire a lawyer to challenge Chairman Kenneth D. Schisler over his unilateral decision to fire five of the agency's most senior employees. They argued that Schisler should not have dismissed the employees without the consent of the full commission.

Commissioner Harold D. Williams said the firings have opened a serious rift at the agency, which regulates all electric utilities and telephone companies in Maryland. Schisler, a Republican, was appointed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). Williams and the two other members who have challenged his authority are appointees of Ehrlich's predecessor, Parris N. Glendening (D).

The firings have led state lawmakers to call for hearings about unrest at the agency and could be the grist for future legal action. Last week, Schisler denied initial appeals by at least three of the fired employees to get their jobs back.

Montgomery Considers Tax Rate Reduction

The Montgomery County Council today will consider a 1-cent reduction in the property tax rate of $1.073 per $100 of assessed value. Lawmakers also will consider raises in the energy tax -- at least enough to fund the property tax cut -- and in the levies the county imposes on such fees as movie tickets and greens fees.

The council's Management and Fiscal Policy Committee approved the proposals yesterday. The council will act on revenue matters today as part of its consideration of the county's budget for fiscal 2005, which begins July 1.

THE REGION

Hearing Set for Walking to FedEx Field

Should football fans be allowed to hoof it to FedEx Field?

Representatives of the committee that drafted a county policy barring fans from walking along Redskins Road to the Landover stadium will meet at 10 a.m. May 28, to discuss pedestrian and vehicular access to the Redskins' home.

The no-walking policy was overturned in December after a Prince George's County judge ruled that the policy was illegal because the "coordinating group" -- a panel of representatives from Prince George's County, the Redskins and the community -- created it without public input. As a result, Washington Redskins fans who attended the season's final home game were able to walk to FedEx Field on Redskins Road for the first time in three years.

Testimony will be taken from anyone who wishes to speak, but speakers must register at least one hour before the meeting and must limit remarks to three minutes. Anyone wishing to submit written comments should send them to Vernon R. Herron, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Public Safety, 14741 Gov. Oden Bowie Drive, Suite 5032, Upper Marlboro, 20772. Written testimony should be received at least a week before the hearing.

Blue Line Train Stuck for Nearly an Hour

About 600 Metro riders were stuck for nearly an hour on a disabled Blue Line train during the height of the morning rush yesterday, and thousands of other passengers on the Blue and Orange Lines experienced significant delays.

The inbound six-car Blue Line train was headed from Arlington Cemetery to Rosslyn when it experienced an electrical malfunction at 7:37 a.m., Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said. The train came to a stop in an outdoor section of the line, she said. The air conditioning was working, Farbstein said.

It took 51 minutes to move the train because the area inside the train where the controls to release the brakes are housed was locked, and the operator did not have the key, Farbstein said. She said it is highly unusual for the control box to be locked. The operator had to climb out and release the brakes from outside the train, she said.

THE DISTRICT

Historical Designation Request Withdrawn

The owners of several buildings at Skyland Shopping Center in Southeast Washington have withdrawn their application to have the buildings deemed historically significant, officials said. They had submitted the proposal last year in hopes of stopping the planned demolition of the retail strip to make way for a larger, more upscale complex.

David L. Burka, who manages the property for the Kogod family, said the owners made their decision after the D.C. Council gave Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) the right to eminent domain to take control of the properties if the owners refuse to sell.

VIRGINIA

Missing Man Sought

Fredericksburg police are looking for a 21-year-old man who has been missing since he offered a stranger a ride nearly two weeks ago.

John Register was last seen about 11 p.m. May 6, when he got off work at the Super 8 Motel on Route 3, according to Detective Greg Grasso. Motel employees told police that Register had offered a ride to the bus station to a man who had been loitering at the Super 8 and had been asked to leave.

Register, who is married and has two children, is 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs 150 pounds. He has brown hair and blue eyes. The pair were last seen in Register's white Chevrolet Lumina, which has a Christian fish symbol on the back, a Virginia license plate, JLM7437, and no hubcaps.

"Why would I pass a tax through this council, then have baseball say they're going to Las Vegas?"

-- D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), on city leaders' refusal to come up with a financing package for a new stadium until Major League Baseball commits to moving the Montreal Expos to Washington. -- Page B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Cameron W. Barr, Michelle Boorstein, Tom Jackman, Lyndsey Layton, Matthew Mosk, Ovetta Wiggins, Debbi Wilgoren and Del Quentin Wilber.

John Register disappeared.