He did his time. Now Ed Norris wants the pension money former Mayor Martin O’Malley promised him 20 years ago as he left the Baltimore Police Department to become superintendent of the Maryland State Police.
Norris says his lawyer, a trustee for the fund, told him several years ago he could take over the trust as he neared retirement age.
“It was supposed to be a transfer of paperwork with my attorney, then somebody stopped it,” says Norris, now 62 and a radio personality who co-hosts 105.7 FM The FAN.
City officials said in 2004 they would claw the money back in light of Norris’s conviction in federal court for misusing the proceeds of another trust fund.
Norris filed a lawsuit in Baltimore City Circuit Court last week against two trustees of “The Rabbi Trust Agreement” and GE Capital Assurance, seeking access to an annuity created for him in September 2002 as an “Individual Flexible Premium Deferred Annuity Contract.”
He estimates its value at about $200,000.
According to the complaint, the two trustees – former City Solicitor Ralph Tyler and Norris’ ex-lawyer, Jeffrey H. Scherr – have ignored his requests for the money. Neither they nor Norris’s current lawyer, Richard Grason IV, returned messages from The Brew.
Norris, a star New York City cop and protege of Bill Bratton, moved to Baltimore in 2000 to become commissioner under O’Malley, where he took credit for reducing the city’s murder count to less than 300.
He left to become the state police superintendent in 2003. Then a year later, he was federally indicted.
Stealing from Cop Welfare Fund
Norris was accused of taking money from a trust fund originally set up as the Police Athletic Fund and later used to supplement the incomes of destitute Baltimore cops and their families.
Shortly after he was hired as police commissioner, Norris directed the obscure fund to sell about $160,000 worth of stock.
He used the proceeds to pay for luxury hotels, expensive meals, clothing and gifts to finance sexual encounters with different women, according to the indictment.
He was also charged with lying on a mortgage application by paying back his father $9,000 that had been characterized as a gift – a charge famously called “the head shot” in an episode of The Wire, where Norris made appearances as “Detective Edward Norris.”
In 2004, Norris pleaded guilty to federal corruption and tax charges. He was sentenced to six months in federal prison and has since maintained that he is innocent and that the charges were politically motivated.
Days after Norris’s guilty plea in 2004, Baltimore officials announced they were clawing back his pension and severance, sending a letter to his then-lawyer Scherr demanding return of the $137,000 severance package and saying the city would stop its annual $6,850 payments into his trust fund because he had not abided by the regulations that govern the police department.
“It’s not about friendship or pity,” Mayor O’Malley told the Baltimore Sun then. “It’s a simple matter that the people of Baltimore don’t owe him these dollars under the terms of his contract.”
Shades of future scandals connected to other Baltimore bigwigs.
O’Malley characterized Norris’s pension trust as a “sweetheart deal” and said he regretted it.
Then City Council President Sheila Dixon supported O’Malley’s effort, saying, “We should get it back. That’s a simple answer.”
Dixon would succeed O’Malley as mayor, then resign amid her own corruption scandal, which involved misappropriating gift cards meant for needy children.
As part of her deal to resign, Dixon preserved her own city pension – $88,000 a year at the time of her resignation and considerably more today.
Norris: “I just want an answer”
Norris filed his complaint as the city suffers its seventh consecutive year of more than 320 murders and State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby faces her own federal charges for allegedly lying on pension withdrawal forms and on mortgage applications to buy two Florida houses.
Norris’ complaint demands specific performance under the trust agreement. It’s not clear what happened to the money in his account after the 2004 letters, but Norris says Scherr sent him statements indicating substantial funds.
The mayor’s office and City Solicitor Jim Shea did not return messages.
“I have so little knowledge about what’s going on here,” Norris said in an interview.
“I went to prison and then got out. Got a call like five years ago [from Scherr] about this fund. I was assured this was easy to get.
“I just want someone to tell me if I can get it. Tell me the black letter law. I just want an answer, that’s all.”