County Attorney Stephen R. Beard, who helped draft and enforce increasingly strict environmental laws during the last eight years, resigned yesterday.
Beard, 41 and a lifelong Davidsonville resident, said he is leaving the Office of Law, effective Dec. 1, to explore offers in the private sector. Beard has worked in the public sector -- first as an assistant state's attorney in Anne Arundel, then as county attorney -- since graduating from the University of Maryland School ofLaw.
Beard, who serves as the county's ethics officer, said he has notbegun negotiations with any other employer. "The overtures involve firms that may be doing business with the county. I don't want there to be even the appearance of a conflict," he said.
Former County Executive O. James Lighthizer hired Beard as county solicitor in 1983. Beard, who prosecuted violent crimes as assistant state's attorney, had worked against Lighthizer, a defense attorney before he became county executive.
Since then, Beard has helped transform a small, part-time solicitor's office into a full-time municipal law agency with 15 attorneys. Where the law office once spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for outside legal firms to handle complex cases, county attorneys now litigate virtually all cases themselves, Beard said.
Perhaps the single greatest achievement during Beard's tenure involves major advances in environmental law. Before Beard's appointment, the county was most frequently involved in legal action as a defendant. Under Beard, however, the county adopted a more offensive stance, usually on environmental issues.
The law office took over enforcement of environmental and code violations from the state's attorney's office, securing record fines of over $30,000.
County attorneys won a landmark criminal case against a major homebuilder accused of violating grading and sediment control laws. They also successfully defendedthe first court challenge to the Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas law.
Beard supervised the law office as it drafted or reviewed all local environmental legislation, including grading and sediment control regulations and the critical areas program.
Among Beard's other accomplishments:
* Computerization of the law office and reorganization to include a land use and environmental protection division.
* Updating the County Code, including removal of archaic, unnecessary laws.
As president of the Maryland County's Attorney Association in1986, Beard also spearheaded adoption of state laws creating a liability cap to protect community leaders and government officials against tort lawsuit judgments.
Beard made a brief foray into elective politics in 1982, running for the House of Delegates in District 33. He finished fourth in the November general election, behind Republicans Elizabeth Smith, Robert R. Neall and John G. Gary.
In a written statement, Neall expressed regret at Beard's impending departure. Thelaw office, he said, "received one of the finest report cards from my transition team of any county office or department."
Beard's successor has been chosen and is expected to be named next week, said Louise Hayman, Neall's press secretary. The new county attorney comes from outside county government, she said.
He will inherit 1,900 legal matters, 900 of which are in litigation, Beard said.