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Alleged Pressure from Governor's Office

POSTED: 11:50 AM ET, 05/ 6/2008 by The Editors

A top police commander in Maryland alleged that political pressure from Gov. Martin O'Malley's office forced state police to grant a new auto inspection license to a Prince George's County station, which had its license revoked four years ago for fraudulent practices, The Post's John Wagner reports today.

Memos and e-mails, obtained by The Post under a public records request, showed that Capt. Robert F. Bambary, who oversaw the state's automotive inspections program, "vigorously objected" to the decision to grant a new license to Hilltop Fleet Services. The Capitol Heights station had its license revoked four years ago for issuing certificates for vehicles its mechanics did not inspect, police said. Officials said they had "serious misgivings" about granting a new license to the station, which issued 2,067 inspection certificates in a five-month period in 2002. Police estimated that mechanics could only inspect 872 vehicles in that time.

Bambary wrote that his superiors, who had initially backed his opinion, changed their minds and supported granting a new license to Hilltop after speaking to Sen. Nathaniel Exum (D-Prince George's), a longtime advocate of the station's owners. "They advised that they were in agreement with my decision; however, strong political pressure was being received from the Governor's Office to reinstate Hilltop Fleet Services to the vehicle safety inspection program," Bambary wrote in a memo March 3, the day the station's new license was issued. "Senator Nathanial (sic) Exum was the one pushing it."

E-mail records and interviews revealed that Exum met with O'Malley's office and one of Bambary's superiors, Col. Terrence B. Sheridan, about Hilltop. Sheridan's confirmation in the Senate was held up by Exum in February and March. Bambary was quoted in a March 12 Post story, saying he "was under orders to put (Hilltop) back in the program, from my boss and from his boss and then up the line." He was reassigned within the police department in a "lateral move" two weeks later.

By The Editors |  May 6, 2008; 11:50 AM ET
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