Reporting Mike Hellgren
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)– The state prosecutor says Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold used police as private investigators on his political opponents.
Mike Hellgren has the newly-released files and the fallout over what some are calling illegal spying.
Some of this information is highly personal. There are questions surrounding how Leopold obtained it and whether it was an abuse of power.
WJZ obtained just some of the thick files Leopold is accused of ordering on his opponents using taxpayer-funded staff and resources.
“Not only did the county executive authorize the police department to do a search of me, but my ex-wife, my children,” Carl Snowden, Director of Office for Civil Rights at the state attorney general’s office, said.
Snowden says it further erodes trust in Leopold following a scathing indictment that he misused his power.
“This is unprecedented, and no county executive has ever done this,” he said. “I think citizens of Anne Arundel Couny are demanding to know how extensive was this particular surveillance campaign.”
Leopold faces accusations he directed county employees to spy on the business dealings of Joanna Conti, a Democrat who ran against him in the last election in 2010.
“If these charges are true, John Leopold is not fit to hold office, and he should resign immediately,” Conti said.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) calls it illegal.
“It’s beyond appalling, and it’s a complete perversion of the political process,” David Rocah of the Maryland ACLU said. “Compiling information about your political opponents is not official law enforcement business.”
The information included criminal information, medical information, real estate records and news reports.
And it also has the police chief under fire over concern he ordered officers to search state criminal databases on Leopold’s behalf.
“We need to know what Chief (James) Teare knew and when he knew it,” Snowden said.
“Frankly, the chief of police has a lot of answer for here,” Rocah said.
Leopold has denied any wrongdoing. He did not respond to WJZ’s request for a comment Thursday.
The ACLU announced Thursday they’ve requested even more files they believe the county executive ordered on other politicians– both Democrat and Republican– and their families.