Reporting Mike Hellgren
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)– Major developments surrounding the Anne Arundel County executive under fire. John Leopold faces several court battles, including misconduct allegations that he misused his executive protection squad.
Mike Hellgren has the latest twists in the scandal.
The executive’s police protection is gone. The new chief says Leopold supports that because he wants more officers on the streets. It comes as several high-ranking members of the police department gave testimony under oath in another case alleging he harassed and retaliated against his former assistant.
Leopold’s use of the now-disbanded elite unit of police officers assigned to protect him is at the heart of the state prosecutor’s indictment, including allegations Leopold ordered police to conduct illegal background checks on political opponents and drive him to sexual encounters.
Now, in depositions WJZ obtained of several high-ranking officers, a former member of that protection detail claims Leopold had officers transferred if he didn’t like them or if they didn’t donate to his campaign.
Another testified Leopold was nicknamed “Crazy Uncle Jack” because of his behavior, and the scandals turned the officer’s life “into a living hell.”
It’s outraged some on the County Council.
“A lot of us, including me, are fed up. It’s time for the county executive to stop abusing the taxpayers’ goodwill, and through his own reckless behavior, exposing the county to this liability,” council member Jamie Benoit said.
The depositions are part of a separate federal harassment lawsuit brought by former county employee Karla Hamner.
“Now, the truth is coming out. I feel so vindicated,” Hamner said. “To hear these officers say they’ve never seen anything like it in a 30-year career, it blew my mind.”
Hamner was the county executive’s assistant, and claims he grabbed her, yelled at her, and when she filed a formal complaint, he retaliated by ordering her firing.
One officer testified Leopold had several conversations about the size of her breasts.
“It was a little shocking to hear that. I had no idea,” Hamner said. “This is literally the tip of the iceberg.”
In the depositions, several officers said they had testified before the grand jury in the state prosecutor’s misconduct case.
“There are going to be a lot of elected officials taking a very hard look at their own way of operating,” Rob Weinhold, a public safety expert with the Fallston Group, said. “Police need to be police. They don’t need to be personal service agents to the elected officials they serve.”
Leopold has said from the start that all of the allegations are false and he intends to fight them vigorously in court.
While the executive protection unit has been disbanded, the county says officers will be available to provide protection for Leopold during special events.
Leopold’s misconduct trial was supposed to start after Labor Day but was pushed back so his defense team could gather information about how other elected leaders use their security details.