Arundel rejected police chief's request for $40,000 in legal fees

Teare sought reimbursement for expenses linked to Leopold indictment

August 23, 2012|By Erin Cox, The Baltimore Sun

Anne Arundel County's former police chief, who retired to end a criminal investigation into his conduct, unsuccessfully lobbied the county to pay his $40,000 legal tab.

The county denied Chief James Teare Sr.'s request, arguing that his expenses did not qualify for a fund designed to protect innocent employees from legal bills.

According to a letter obtained Thursday by The Baltimore Sun, Teare's attorney said the legal fees were incurred as Teare defended himself in the investigation of County Executive John R. Leopold's use of a police security detail. A week before Teare's last day on the job, his attorney asked the county to pay his legal bills, arguing that the chief's retirement inexpensively resolved the criminal probe into his conduct.

"The quick and favorable resolution of the investigation regarding the chief may well have saved the taxpayers and the fund hundreds of thousands of dollars in defense expenses which would have been incurred had he insisted on remaining in office and fighting any charges that might have been brought against him," Teare's attorney, Gerard P. Martin, wrote in a July 26 letter to County Attorney Jonathan Hodgson.

Hodgson recommended that the county deny the request because Teare was never charged with a crime and was not the subject of a noncriminal internal investigation, documents said. Chief Operating Officer John Hammond denied the request Aug. 3. The Capital newspaper in Annapolis first reported the denial.

Teare's retirement Aug. 1, announced by the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor, was the first county government departure stemming from the indictment of Leopold. The county executive is accused of misusing his police security detail for personal and political gain. Leopold has denied any wrongdoing. His misconduct trial is scheduled to begin in January.

County spokesman David Abrams said Leopold has not asked that the county pay his legal fees in the criminal case.

The five-count indictment of Leopold alleges that Teare knew about Leopold's behavior but did nothing to stop it. According to a letter from Teare's attorney, both the state prosecutor and the county's office of law suggested that Teare retain an attorney because "he was perhaps exposed to criminal liability."

Anne Arundel County created a Criminal Reimbursement Expense Fund to repay "reasonable defense expenses" of public safety employees in "criminal prosecutions and internal investigations."

Hodgson and Martin disagree about whether Teare's expenses to avoid a criminal investigation should qualify.

Hodgson declined to comment on his recommendations. Martin could not be reached for comment.

County laws allow Teare to ask the county's Board of Appeals to review the decision. As of Thursday, no appeal had been filed.

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