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Nilson out as Baltimore city solicitor

City Solicitor George A. Nilson. (File photo)

City Solicitor George A. Nilson. (File photo)

Baltimore City Solicitor George A. Nilson will step down from his position next week, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Friday.

Deputy Solicitor David Ralph will serve as interim solicitor beginning Wednesday, according to a statement from the mayor’s office.

“The mayor thanks Mr. Nilson for his dedicated service to the City of Baltimore and wishes him well in his future endeavors,” the statement reads.

No reason was given for Nilson’s departure. Efforts to contact Nilson on Friday afternoon were unsuccessful; a receptionist in the Law Department said he left the office for the day.

The announcement comes one day after the Law Department ended its relationship with a contract attorney after it was reported he was a dues-paying member of a neo-Nazi group.

Glen K. Allen, who started working for the city in February, was a supporter of the National Alliance, a white nationalist anti-Semitic group, according to an investigation by the Southern Poverty Law Center published Wednesday night.

Allen, a Baltimore solo practitioner who retired from DLA Piper US LLP in January, was listed in court records as one of the attorneys defending the city in a federal lawsuit filed last year by an African-American man who alleged he was wrongfully arrested and imprisoned for 19 years for a murder he did not commit.

“None of the historical facts and alleged facts recently publicized about Mr. Allen’s political views and affiliations were disclosed or discussed when his contract was agreed to,” the city said in a statement Thursday. “The Law Department does not as a general practice question its hired or contract attorneys about their political views.”

Rawlings-Blake “had no involvement whatsoever” in Allen’s recruitment or hiring, the statement adds. Nilson declined to comment Thursday beyond the city’s statement. Allen did not respond to requests for comment but said in the statement he “regrets any embarrassment the public attention of the last 24 hours may have caused” Nilson or Rawlings-Blake.

Nilson, 74, was appointed city solicitor by then-Mayor Sheila Dixon in January 2007 after many years at DLA Piper US LLP. He also served six years as a deputy attorney general of Maryland and was chairman of the General Assembly Compensation Commission for eight years.

In 2008, Nilson received from the International Municipal Lawyers Association a public service award that honors a local government attorney for “significant and surpassing achievements in the field of local government law.”

During Nilson’s tenure, the city paid out tens of millions of dollars for settlements of police brutality cases, including $6.4 million last year to the family of Freddie Gray. Nilson voted for many of the settlements while part of Baltimore’s Board of Estimates, a five-person spending panel on which the city solicitor sits.

“We looked at the extraordinary circumstances, which truly are unique,” Nilson said in September in explaining why he thought the settlement would not be precedent-setting. “I won’t say it was a perfect storm, but it’s a situation that’s not likely to repeat itself.”

In June 2011, a month after The Daily Record reported — based on statistics provided by the Law Department — the city had paid more than Nilson drafted the protocol for what became the Baltimore Police Department’s “teachable moments” program in an effort to reduce the number of lawsuits and settlements.

The two-pronged approach consisted of counseling for the officers involved in the lawsuits and using the incidents in the litigation as part of the department’s training program.