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O'Malley Defends Hilltop Decision

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) suggested today that an automotive safety inspection station in Prince George's County will receive increased monitoring from the Maryland State Police as he defended his administration's decision to issue a new license to the facility four years after its previous one was revoked for fraudulent practices.

The Washington Post reported this week that police issued a license to Hilltop Fleet Services of Capitol Heights in March despite objections by the commander who ran the inspections program. Capt. Robert F. Bambary alleged in a memo that "strong political pressure" from the governor's office and a Prince George's senator was behind the decision.

Hilltop's license was revoked in 2004 after police found evidence that the station had issued certificates for hundreds if not thousands of inspections its mechanics did not conduct. The station's owners alleged they had been treated unfairly in seeking a new license and sought help from Sen. Nathaniel Exum (D-Prince George's), who brought the issue to the attention of O'Malley's office.

Appearing on WTOP radio yesterday, O'Malley acknowledged that his office did ask Col. Terrence B. Sheridan, superintendent of the state police, to re-examine the case.

"We did in fact ask him to take a second look at it," O'Malley said. "The resolution he came up with was fair and reasonable and within the law."

O'Malley said that it was unusual for the police not to have a firm period of revocation regulations. The police have revised their policy in response to the episode.

Pressed by the show's host about the safety implications of re-licensing the station, O'Malley said "it puts them high on the radar screen" for monitoring by the police.

By Anne Bartlett  |  May 7, 2008; 2:35 PM ET
Categories:  John Wagner  
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