The Baltimore City Council has refused to pay the $6.4 million settlement to Freddie Gray’s family, as well as the $2 million to lawyers involved in the city’s police probe, The Baltimore Sun reports.
On Tuesday, The Budget and Appropriations committee voted to withdraw the bill until it is presented in two parts. Members of the council don’t object to the idea of paying the family of Gray, who died in police custody last April, but are opposed to paying the Washington-based law firm, WilmerHale.
The law firm helped city attorneys during the Department of Justice investigation into police practices. They’ve also already paid the firm $1 million for their services.
The money to pay WilmerHale would be taken out of the same collection to pay the family of Freddie Gray: the Police Department’s legal fund.
Until the bill is split in two, the council will not support it.
The Baltimore Sun reports:
Councilwoman Helen Holton of West Baltimore said the committee wants the administration to split the spending into separate bills.
“How [the administration] chooses to deal with that, I am not mind reader, but I think it was a very clear vote from this committee,” said Holton, who chairs the committee.
Howard Libit, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said, “It is disappointing that the council would take action without any opportunity for public discussion or debate. Isn’t that the purpose of the council hearing process?
Other members of the council, including Vice President Edward Reisinger of South Baltimore, believe they are at odds because of the previously unbalanced budget, the belief the decision to hire the firm was approved without the full council present, and the fact the city hired a law firm outside of state lines.
The payment would also reflect the assumption the city is defending the police department and reportedly cause a domino effect that would harm its residents.
Reisinger tells The Baltimore Sun:
“The City Council is an institution and we are elected by the people of our districts,” said Reisinger, a member of the budget committee. “We have the right to know when they are spending the taxpayers’ money. The ball is in their court.”
So far, the administration hasn’t decided on their next move or whether the bill will be split into two. The announcement of the payout to Gray’s family happened in September, with Fraternal Order of Police president Gene Ryan calling the multi-million dollar settlement “obscene.”