In a lawsuit filed in late July, Del. Rick Impallaria alleges that Harford County Sheriff Jesse Bane has “violated his oath of office in his duty to protect and serve the public,” “sullied the good name of the Sheriff’s Department and of his deputies,” and “aided and abetted” in the theft and extortion from “the citizens he is sworn to protect” by failing to protect citizens from “the unscrupulous practices of towing companies.”
Specifically, Impallaria is concerned with the authority of private towing companies, employed by the Sheriff’s Office, to retain possession of contents of a vehicle along with the registration plates until the towing and storage charges on the vehicle have been paid.
What’s more, Impallaria has filed the suit not as a private citizen, but as “Delegate Richard K. Impallaria, Chair of the Harford County Delegation;” a distinction which may imply the suit is in effect, Harford County Delegation v. Bane – despite the Delegation not having been previously informed of the lawsuit.
Some excerpts from the suit include the following:
“The Sheriff of Harford County, duly sworn to uphold the laws of the State of Maryland and of Harford County, has willingly and knowingly, on a continual basis, violated his oath of office in his duty to protect and serve the public;”
“The Sheriff of Harford County, who has legal control over towing companies within the County, has on an ongoing basis aided and abetted these companies in the theft of private and government property and in extortion of money from the citizens he has sworn to protect;”
“The Sheriff of Harford County has made his deputies unwilling and complicit participants in these unlawful acts and, by these acts, has sullied the good name of the Sheriff’s Department and of his deputies;”
“The Harford County Delegation has communicated with the Sheriff numerous times over a period of years, requesting that he comply with the law and cease aiding and abetting the theft of private and government property by police towers, and that he has vehemently refused to comply;”
“The Harford County Delegation has introduced legislation in the 2010 and 2011 legislative sessions to compel the Sheriff to comply with the law and stop aiding and abetting these unlawful acts, and he has actively and successfully lobbied to prevent legislation to compel him to uphold his sworn duty.”
“Every reasonable effort to resolve this issue with the Sheriff of Harford County has been made by the Harford County Delegation and has been rejected by the Sheriff, and the thirty (30) days have passed without a response from the Sheriff or from the Sheriff’s Department;”
“We respectfully request that the Court order the duly elected Sheriff to cease these unlawful practices and to comply with the (attached) Attorney General’s ruling, and to follow the law as set forth in that ruling (citation). We further request that the Sheriff be required to post a legal notice in the newspaper(s) and online informing the public that they may have been victims of the Sheriff’s policy not to enforce (citation), along with contact information on how to report those incidents and receive legal remedies, and to set up a special unit to deal with these matters, and to report to the Court and to the Harford County Delegation within thirty (30) days their compliance, and to give additional progress reports to the Court and to the Delegation every thirty (30) days for the next twelve (12) months, and to remove any tower who has been found in violation of the cited law from the Police Tow List for no less than one (1) year. Also, we request any and all other legal remedies that the Court may deem necessary.”
The full suit, along with Impallaria’s letters to Bane, a written opinion on the towing practices from Assistant Attorney General Kathryn M. Rowe, and the text of two prior bills filed by Impallaria and the Delegation regarding the towing practices, are listed below.
Del. Glen Glass, a Republican representing southeastern Harford and southwestern Cecil Counties in District 34A, said he had not spoken with Impallaria about the lawsuit and didn’t believe it involved the Delegation. Glass also said he and the Delegation support the Sheriff’s Office.
“As far I am concerned this lawsuit is between Delegate Impallaria and the Sheriff’s office, and doesn’t involve the Harford County Delegation. I haven’t been contacted by Delegate Impallaria regarding this matter,” Glass said.
“My feelings are that the Harford County Sheriff’s Office overall does a very good job and I only have good things to say regarding their service to our citizens of Harford County; it is also my belief the rest of the Delegation feels as I do,” he added.
Del. Donna Stifler, a Republican representing the northern District 35A, said, “I am not suing anyone, professionally or personally,” and that she had communicated with Impallaria, who told her the Delegation was not involved at all.
Impallaria and Bane did not return requests for comment.