Leopold Found Guilty of Misconduct, Suspended

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John Leopold (Credit: Anne Arundel County)

John Leopold (Credit: Anne Arundel County)

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A judge on Tuesday found Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold guilty of misconduct in office for using his security detail to perform political campaign activities while on the job and for making a secretary and members of his detail empty his urine catheter bag for months in 2010.

Leopold has been suspended as county executive as a result of the judge’s finding. John Hammond, the county’s chief administrative officer, has been named acting county executive, Leopold’s office said in a statement.

Judge Dennis Sweeney, speaking in a packed courtroom at the end of a highly publicized trial in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, described Leopold as “predatory and cruel” for forcing his secretary to empty the bag on her hands and knees up to three times a day for nine or 10 months. He also said Leopold’s actions were “simply outrageous” and an example of “overbearing arrogance.”

“This continuing abusive and outrageous conduct exceeded any right that any employer either private or public would have to demand of employees who were hired to perform office or security work,” the judge said.

As for the political activities, Leopold was found guilty of requiring members of his security detail to put up campaign signs as he ran for re-election in 2010 when they were on duty as police officers. Leopold also required them to pick up campaign checks and compile dossiers on political opponents.

The Anne Arundel County Council has scheduled an emergency meeting Wednesday to introduce a bill to remove Leopold from office, said Jerry Walker, chairman of the council. A public hearing and vote is expected to take place at a regularly scheduled meeting Monday night, Walker said. The council would need five out of seven votes to remove Leopold, a 69-year-old Republican who is in his second term as county executive.

“No one on the council has told me they’re definitely going to vote for it, but I would say it’s a political no brainer and, frankly, probably political suicide if anybody wants to try to hang with him at this point,” Walker, a Republican, said in an interview.

A public hearing and vote is expected to take place at a regularly scheduled meeting Monday night, Walker said.

The judge acquitted Leopold of spending $10,000 in overtime pay to use members of security detail for his benefit, including shuttling him to sexual encounters in a bowling alley parking lot. Leopold also was acquitted of using some of that overtime money to conceal a personal relationship with a woman while he was in a hospital recovering from back surgery. Last week, Sweeney threw out another charge of misconduct in office against Leopold relating to the alleged theft of an opponent’s campaign signs.

Joanna Conti, who ran against Leopold in 2010, said she was relieved by the judge’s decision on Tuesday.

“I must say I’m very relieved because there were things that happened during the campaign that my campaign staff, we kept saying to each other, ‘How does he think he can get away with this?’ And so, I feel my faith the democratic process has been restored today,” Conti said.

State prosecutors contended in the case that Leopold engaged in a pattern of using county resources for his own personal and political benefits. Leopold’s attorneys argued that the charges were vague and did not constitute crimes.

Before becoming county executive in Maryland’s fourth largest county, Leopold served 20 years in the Maryland House of Delegates. He also served in the Hawaii State House of Representatives from 1970 to 1974 and the Hawaii State Senate from 1974 to 1978.

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(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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