Anne Arundel threatens legal action over Leopold accusations

Attorney for woman accusing county exec of sexual harassment claimed he filed document Thursday

September 10, 2010|By Nicole Fuller, The Baltimore Sun

The Anne Arundel County attorney is threatening legal action against a lawyer who claimed to have filed a complaint in county Circuit Court on Thursday against County Executive John R. Leopold.

The document, which detailed additional allegations in a sexual harassment, discrimination and workplace retaliation lawsuit against Leopold, was never filed in Circuit Court because the case had been transferred.

John M. Singleton, the attorney representing former county employee Karla R. Hamner in her suit against Leopold, told The Baltimore Sun and other news organizations that he filed an amended complaint to the suit in Circuit Court on Thursday. But a court official said the complaint was received Friday, and because the case was moved to U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Friday, the amended complaint will be returned to Singleton.

County Attorney Jonathan A. Hodgson, who moved successfully to transfer the case to federal court because the allegations concern violations of federal law, said in a letter Friday to Singleton that if the new complaint is filed, the county would "seek an award of sanctions" against Singleton and his firm to pay for legal time and costs "in disposing of the frivolous claims and contentions."

"Many of the allegations bear no relationship to your client's claims and I am unable to discern how there could be any proper purpose in making those allegations and how they are not simply interposed for purposes of harassment or other improper and abusive objectives," Hodgson wrote.

Kim Early, a deputy to Circuit Court Clerk Robert P. Duckworth, said the amended complaint can't be filed there.

"It's not in our court anymore, so no action will be taken on anything," Early said. "Anything submitted will be returned to the filing party."

Singleton, an Owings Mills attorney, said Friday that he told reporters the complaint had been filed because lawyers routinely mail corroborating documents and motions to a lawsuit after an initial filing. Singleton said that Hodgson did not inform him that the case was being moved to federal court and called that action "a little bit of manipulation."

"I keep getting smacked down and threatened," said Singleton, who said he intends to file the complaint in federal court. "Now I know how it feels to be an Anne Arundel County employee. He's creating this drama that doesn't match up with reality — deny, deny, deny and discredit."

Singleton said a draft of the amended complaint that contained allegations, which former county employees have come forward to debunk, was legal "brainstorming."

"When you finally put together your filing, you're not going to put things in that you can't double-check," said Singleton. "It's really smoke and mirrors. I'm not going to try this case in the press. There'll be a judge or a jury who will have to make a decision about who's telling the truth and who's not telling the truth."

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.

The amended complaint that Singleton told the news media he filed Thursday sought $5 million and expanded the allegations against Leopold, and also named Dennis Callahan, the county's chief administrative officer, as a defendant.

In a draft of the amended complaint that Singleton distributed to reporters Wednesday, several of Leopold's alleged victims were named. Singleton said the women felt "empowered" to speak out, but he said he removed the people's names after corresponding with attorneys for some of the former employees in order to "protect the innocent."

Two former employees who were initially named in the suit as victims of Leopold, but whose alleged claims were removed from a later document, said in interviews with The Sun 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.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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