Between the two complaints made against Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold by female employees and the bizarre incident in which a 911 caller reported illicit activity in the back of his car in a mall parking lot, enough questions are swirling around the first-term Republican to demand some sort of public accounting. The problem, so far, is that the citizens of Anne Arundel County have no way of knowing whether that's taking place.
According to reporting in The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post, state employee Marvinese Harris claims that Mr. Leopold made aggressive, unwelcome advances to her while in line in the cafeteria of the Arundel Center late last month. Another woman, former county employee Karla Hammer, claims Mr. Leopold verbally and physically harassed her when she worked as his spokesman.
Mr. Leopold has refused to discuss the details and instead referred to a state Department of Human Resources investigation of Ms. Harris' complaint that found "no probable cause." That echoed his response to the 911 call, when he pointed to a finding by a patrol officer who responded to the scene that the complaint was "unfounded."
But such internal investigations do little to clear public doubts. The police chief, after all, works for Mr. Leopold, and it's hard to imagine that a state agency would effectively police a local elected official.
Ideally, some independent entity would be able to handle this situation. In that sense, the NAACP, which is assisting Ms. Harris, was wise to enlist State Prosecutor Robert Rohrbaugh's office. That agency is designed to handle public corruption, not sexual harassment, but it has handled this kind of case before. In 2003, the office took over an investigation into sexual harassment complaints against then-Harford County Sheriff Joseph P. Meadows, eventually leading to his resignation.
However, Mr. Rohrbaugh's office has a policy against confirming the existence of its investigations, leaving the public with no way to know if anyone is taking the matter seriously.
If we can't count on an apolitical resolution, we may be forced to accept the opposite extreme. Any members of the Anne Arundel County Council who weren't previously thinking about challenging Mr. Leopold in next year's election probably are now, and that gives them a powerful incentive to keep this story alive. Some council members are now talking openly about starting their own investigation, and at least one has suggested Mr. Leopold might need to step down while it's conducted.
At this point, that seems extreme. But a County Council-sponsored investigation might be the best option. The involvement of so many self-interested inquisitors could turn into a circus - but then again, the clash of ambitions is what our political system is based on. The council should seek to come to a bipartisan consensus on an investigation that gives Mr. Leopold a full and fair opportunity to respond. It might not be pretty, but it would get to the truth, and that is what the citizens deserve.