Baltimore’s Board of Estimates on Wednesday voted to appropriate $2 million from the city’s general fund to cover the cost of retaining a Washington, D.C., law firm that is representing the city during the federal civil rights investigation of the Baltimore Police Department.
The agreement with WilmerHale extends through June 30, when City Solicitor George A. Nilson said the Department of Justice matter will likely be nearing its conclusion and recommending remedies for the city.
Baltimore officials reached out to WilmerHale within a week of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake requesting the investigation in May. Wednesday’s vote was to formalize the appropriation, according to Nilson, but WilmerHale has been working since they were hired in mid-May.
The Department of Justice inquiry came following rioting and unrest after the death of Freddie Gray from injuries sustained in police custody in April. Other cities who were investigated by the Department of Justice hired outside counsel, according to Nilson, and WilmerHale’s attorneys have experience in these probes.
“I felt WilmerHale was far and away the firm best equipped to help the city … navigate this matter to the best conclusion in the circumstances,” Nilson wrote in an October memo.
Outside counsel was necessary because of the nature of the investigation as well at its magnitude and importance, according to the memo, which Nilson deemed beyond the capacity of the city’s Law Department.
The WilmerHale team is lead by Jamie Gorelick, a former Deputy U.S. Attorney General, and Brent Gurney, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney with “significant experience” working with the Baltimore Police Department, according to the memo.