A retired Howard County police officer who alleged that she suffered sexual harassment in a department that indulged a longstanding, male-oriented "locker-room culture" has received a payment of $115,000 to settle a federal lawsuit she filed last year.
Lawyers for the county and former uniformed officer Linda Freeman reached a settlement in Baltimore's federal district court last October, but the terms remained confidential until portions were made public last week, said Freeman's Baltimore lawyer, Jonathan Ruckdeschel.
Freeman, who joined the department in 1984, alleged that she was ostracized when she complained about the behavior of Sgt. William Donahue, who became her supervisor in 1999.
Donahue, who retired with the rank of corporal in 2002, "was notorious throughout the department" for being obsessed with pornography and for organizing "bull roasts," parties for male officers where he raffled off sexual favors from strippers in attendance, according to the lawsuit.
After Freeman took her complaints to Chief G. Wayne Livesay in 2001, she was transferred from her post and denied promotions, the complaint said.
Freeman did not return to the department after the settlement was reached, and she retired with full benefits this April, said Ruckdeschel.
Sherry Llewellyn, speaking for the Police Department, said the department could not comment on the case because it was still bound by the settlement's terms of confidentiality.
Fending Off the Letter S
For the record: Howard's newly appointed school superintendent has many cousins, but there is only one Sydney L. Cousin.
For his entire life, said the singular superintendent, people have inadvertently added an "s" to his last name.
His phone conversations sometimes sound like this:
"This is Sydney Cousin calling for Bob Smith."
"We don't have a Sydney here."
The worst mangling of his name, he said, was by the National Aquarium in Baltimore. On his membership card, his name was spelled "Cidney Cuzzens." The chronic mispronunciation of Cousin's name has also irked county school board member Sandra H. French. At a recent meeting, she admonished a parent at the speaker's lectern.
"I would appreciate it if people in the public could get our superintendent's name correct," she said.
Homecoming for Fire Engine
On June 15, 1924, when it was dedicated by the Howard County Fire Department, the magnificent American LaFrance Type 38 fire engine, with its stout wooden wheels and chrome water tank, was a big step forward from the horse-drawn pumper that was its predecessor.
The truck has gone many miles since then. It fought fires in Howard and on the Eastern Shore, spent time in a Baltimore scrap yard and sojourned in California as an advertisement for restaurants before ending up with a private fire memorabilia collector in Morro Bay.
But now the truck is back, thanks to the efforts of a nonprofit group of fire history fans headed by volunteer firefighter David Moynihan of Ellicott City. Moynihan raised $20,000 to buy the truck and bring it home just in time for the 80th anniversary of its dedication.
"Eighty years to the day, it was back and running in Howard County," said Moynihan, president of the 1stEngine Foundation of Howard County.
The engine may be appearing in a county Fourth of July parade, though the plans are not yet final. Beyond that, members of the foundation are focused on raising the $150,000 they expect they'll need to restore the truck to its original nickel and chrome-plated glory.
Media Want Report Public
A Howard police investigation resulted in Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark being cleared of domestic abuse allegations involving his fiancee, but two media companies have taken the matter to court. The Baltimore Sun and WBAL-TV filed lawsuits last week against Howard County police and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, asking that copies of the investigative report be released publicly.
"This report is of an investigation that was conducted that ultimately led the mayor to conclude that it was appropriate for Commissioner Clark to resume his duties," said Stephanie Abrutyn, an attorney for the Sun. "We think the public has a right to know the basis for that decision."
Earlier this month, O'Malley decided that the investigation "could not substantiate that an assault took place" and said that the commissioner could return to work from voluntary paid leave. The mayor's office said the investigation was a personnel matter, which state law protects from public scrutiny.
Howard County police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said the Police Department would have no comment because the lawsuit is pending.
High School Gets Name
Howard's 12th high school, now under construction along Marriottsville Road, has a name. The Board of Education agreed this week that the facility will be called Marriott's Ridge High School, one of the choices recommended by a committee of parents, school officials, a historian and a geographer.
Free HIV Tests Offered
The Howard County Health Department will administer free HIV tests tomorrow to anyone seeking the test at its offices in Columbia, Ellicott City and Laurel, as part of National HIV Testing Day. No appointment is necessary to receive the test from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Staff writers Phuong Ly and Susan DeFord contributed to this report.