Reporting Mike Hellgren
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)— A stunning twist in the abuse of power scandal surrounding Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold. The police chief will not testify about what he knows about the spying allegations.
Mike Hellgren explains why James Teare is not testifying.
The council plans to re-subpoena the chief next Monday night. If he continues to refuse to, the council will ask their lawyers what their next steps are.
The Anne Arundel County Council called a brief emergency meeting after Teare refused to testify before them. Members unanimously subpoenaed the chief to do so under oath about allegations that his boss–County Executive John Leopold–directed police to illegally access the state criminal records database to dig up dirt on political enemies.
“I was pretty surprised by it,” said Derek Fink, council chairman. “I think it’s very disappointing the chief has refused to answer the call of the subpoena and show up Monday night.”
Teare’s lawyer explained his client’s refusal, saying any testimony could impede the state prosecutor’s open investigation into Leopold. And he claimed the subpoena was invalid– that council members voted to issue it secretly.
“It’s important that the police officers that are policing our streets in this county know that we do care and that we’re looking out for their best interest. So if the chief didn’t stand up for them, they can look for the council to do that,” Fink said.
Teare serves at the pleasure of the county executive, and the council has no power to get rid of him.
This comes after Teare wrote a letter to the head of state police, asking that agency to investigate whether any of his officers violated the law by accessing records on Leopold’s behalf.
State police declined to do so.
ACLU released this statement in response to Chief Teare’s requests:
“It should not take a subpoena for the chief of police to tell the county council (the elected representatives of the voters of Anne Arundel County for whom Chief Teare works), and the voters themselves what he knows about what happened. It is simply inexcusable for the chief to stonewall about what the police did, when they did it, why they did it, and precisely what he did or did not do to address it at the time or since. If he cannot do this, he simply cannot perform the most basic function of his job, which is to enforce the law. And if he is afraid of his own personal culpability in this regard, then he has no business being the chief of police.”
Two police unions already voted no confidence in the chief, saying he turned a blind eye to Leopold’s alleged wrongdoing. One union asked Gov. O’ Malley to take action.
But the governor’s office told WJZ that Gov. O’Malley is not stepping in.
“There is an ongoing investigation, and we prefer to let that run its course,” said a spokeswoman.
Leopold is under indictment for misconduct in office and misappropriating taxpayer money.
The state prosecutor alleges Leopold used the criminal database to keep files on his political enemies, including activist Carl Snowden and Joanna Conti, who was his opponent in the last election.
“If these charges are true, John Leopold is not fit to hold office, and he should resign immediately,” Conti said.
The ACLU has also asked the state for an audit of the criminal database that will focus on who may have used it to gain information on Leopold’s enemies and when.
“We have been under some pressure to have a very public accounting of this. All the last couple of weeks, we’ve all had a chance to deliberate and take in input from our constituents. It’s pretty clear now what it is they want us to do,” said James Benoit, Anne Arundel County Council, District 4.
Leopold maintains he has done nothing wrong. Both he and the chief have no plans of stepping down.
The ACLU is calling the police chief’s refusal to testify inexcusable.