New accusations call Arundel executive Leopold 'addicted to women'

Allegations part of a complaint filed by former employee last month

September 09, 2010|By Nicole Fuller, The Baltimore Sun

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold is facing new allegations of sexual misconduct and financial impropriety in a legal complaint seeking $5 million, which claims that he used his position as a way to meet women and retaliated against employees who resisted his advances.

The new allegations are part of an amendment to a complaint filed last month by former county employee Karla R. Hamner. The document, filed Thursday afternoon in county Circuit Court, alleges that Leopold is "addicted to women" and would often use binoculars to survey women coming and going from the county government building in downtown Annapolis. It also says that it was "not unusual" for Leopold to call the building's uniformed guards and ask for the identity of women he found attractive, and that he ordered county police to run down the license plates of cars driven by women he was attracted to.

"This guy is like a predator," said John M. Singleton, Hamner's attorney. "Because he has power that was given to him by his office, he can hunt women in a way that other people can't. Along the way, he's created an administration that has terminated and transferred enough people to scare them to death."

County Attorney Jonathan A. Hodgson called the new allegations "outrageous," and Leopold, a Republican, characterized them in a separate statement as "ugly politics and character assassination at its worst." Some people named in a draft of the complaint that was circulated to news media denied the allegations made against the county executive.

"This case has always been about trying to get the county to pay his client substantial amounts of money for wrongs that never occurred based on the threat of hurtful and false allegations in an election season," said Hodgson."These new allegations only confirm that belief because of their outrageous falsehood."

The complaint, which also names as a defendant Dennis Callahan, the county's chief administrative officer, alleges "financial irregularities and other unlawful acts," and an atmosphere of intimidation that would prevent county employees from speaking out. The suit does not detail those allegations, and Singleton said he could not comment on them. The suit asks for a $5 million judgment against both Leopold and Callahan to be placed in a "fund to reimburse those citizens who have been unlawfully damaged by such unlawful acts."

The complaint says that many employees didn't report irregularities because they feared for their jobs., adding that treatment by top administrators "had the impact of discouraging any whistle blowing by even the bravest of county employees."

Hodgson said the timing of the allegations is suspicious. Leopold is set to stand for re-election this November against Democrat Joanna Conti and Green Party candidate Mike Shay.

Conti said in a statement, "I am deeply disturbed by the numerous allegations of inappropriate behavior by John Leopold that are outlined in the recent lawsuit. County employees deserve to be treated fairly and professionally, and I am appalled that county tax dollars are going to have be spent defending John Leopold."

But Hodgson said, "We've maintained all along that this is really just nothing of any merit. The timing of the filing in relation to the upcoming election — and [Singleton's] aggressive use of the media — indicates he's just simply trying to embarrass as many people as he can with baseless claims."

Hodgson added, "It's just a collection of irrelevancies. I suppose he expects it to titillate. It's just a lot of baseless allegations. … I would be ashamed to file a document like this in court."

Hamner, who worked for Leopold for more than a year ending in 2008, filed a $300,000 sexual harassment, discrimination and workplace retaliation suit Aug. 23, alleging that Leopold made unwanted sexual advances toward her and once grabbed her by her arms and screamed at her because he disliked her hairstyle. She said that after complaining about her treatment, she was abruptly transferred to a job in the Police Department and ultimately let go.

In a draft of the amended complaint that Singleton distributed to reporters, several of Leopold's alleged victims were named. Singleton said the women felt "empowered" to speak out. But Singleton removed the names after corresponding with attorneys for some of the former employees, he said, in order to "protect the innocent." He says he expected the names could become public following depositions.

Two former employees who were initially named in the suit as victims of Leopold, but whose alleged claims were removed from the final court filing, said in interviews that the claims were false and that they had never spoken with Singleton. A third, a current county police corporal, signed a sworn affidavit stating the claims made involving him were untrue.

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