Maryland AG, candidate for governor runs toll plazas at high speed on routine trips - police
By Peter Samuel
For Doug Gansler, Maryland's attorney-general every car trip justifies sirens, flashing lights, high speed, use of a shoulder lane to bypass congestion and running red lights according to the head of the executive protection section of Maryland State Police. Once after Gansler used his state E-ZPass to go through an electronic toll-only lane at the Fort McHenry Tunnel at 62mph - over twice the posted speed - an official there threatened to "suspend his privileges" (E-ZPass account) if he repeated the high speed run through the plaza area. (see memos exchanged nearby)
The toll plaza is a slightly modernized traditional mixed cash and electronic toll collection affair and the E-ZPass Only lane leftside is posted for 30mph.
Like most such toll plazas it was designed in the days when all drivers had to stop to throw coins or tokens in a coin machine basket or pay a toll collector at a toll booth. It has quite close spaced lane drops - a short belly in' whose merges are safe enough taken by vehicles all just accelerating from the stop but cause turbulence in the traffic flow with vehicles traveling different speeds.
The account of Gansler's long history of wild driving in his state vehicle, an unmarked Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, is contained in police reports obtained by the Washington Post, including memos from troopers assigned to Gansler to the commander of the state police's executive protection unit Lt Charles Ardolini. There are also memos written by Ardolini to the chief of Maryland state police and to the criminal investigation bureau of the force.
Ardolini wrote that Gansler's driving misbehavior was "non-stop" and has been occurring daily for about five years: "Attorney-General Gansler has consistently acted in a way that disregards public safety, our (police) troopers' lives and even the law."
According to the commander of the VIP protection squad the attorney-general is always frenetic about getting to his destination as fast as emergency services sirens and lights and highspeed allow.
Pages of memos make Gansler - pretty much a Montgomery County unknown on the larger DC area political scene - look at best to be a self-important jerk, at worst a practicing third world bully and thug. He issued a statement after the revelations at the weekend saying that "the portrait that emerges from state police memos and emails obtained by the Washington Post is untrue."
"Deeply respects" state troopers
He claimed to "deeply respect" the troopers of the executive protection unit but conceded: "A few of the 18 troopers who have provided me protection felt my backseat driving made them feel uncomfortable - for that I apologize."
And a spokesman for Gansler says the affair is partly the product of "longstanding animosity" between Gansler and Ardolini.
Ardolini in his report for the head of the state police department describes the state attorney general as going way beyond "backseat driving." When his drivers showed reluctance to turn on lights and sirens he would lean over and turn them on himself. And according to the commander of the unit, he badmouths drivers who don't drive fast enough or hesitate about overtaking slow traffic on the shoulder.
He frequently shouts at his drivers to speed up for a yellow and sometimes demands they run a red light. This is usually for regular journeys of no urgency.
On other occasions, Ardolini said, Gansler drove himself so he could operate the emergency sirens and lights and drive fast. That included a trip to watch a Redskins game. After once driving himself his vehicle was badly beaten up in some kind of crash. A bumper had to be taped to secure it for a trip to the shop.
"When I am Governor..."
In a memo to the chief of the Criminal Investigation Bureau of the state police Ardolini says he was forced by Gansler's reckless drives to issue a written order to his squad limiting emergency procedures such as running shoulders and red lights to real emergencies. Officers assigned to Gansler reported he was "very upset" when they refused to follow his orders saying they were forbidden by their commander.
Gansler told several of them: "When I am governor the first thing I am doing is getting rid of Ardolini."
Ardolini: "Every day the AG (Gansler) insists that the Troopers' Code 1 (full emergency highspeed driving) to his events. This includes breakfast meetings and his children's sporting activities. If the Troopers tell him they have been ordered by their Lieutenant not to do this he will make negative comments about me and 'order' them to put the emergency equipment on. If they don't turn on the lights and sirens he will reach over and turn them on himself. I am told almost daily by the Troopers that they are worried about their safety and the safety of others."
O'Malley would revoke his driver privileges
The Washington Post reports that Governor Martin O'Malley was briefed about the problem last year and said the police would have his support taking "corrective action" including withdrawing Gansler's chauffeur service. Gansler's position as attorney-general is elected, so it is unclear O'Malley has the power to dismiss him.
Gansler, 51, is running as a Democrat candidate for governor in the 2014 election, when the present governor Martin O'Malley is term-limited out. In his last election to AG in 2010 Gansler was unopposed.