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New Bill In AA Co. Council Proposes Officials Accused Of Misconduct Pay Their Own Legal Fees

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John Leopold
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Rochelle Ritchie joined WJZ Eyewitness News in June 2012. Prio...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)– Members of the Anne Arundel County Council are hoping a new bill will keep taxpayers from footing the legal bill when officials are accused of misconduct. The timing is no coincidence considering the investigation into County Executive John Leopold.

Rochelle Ritchie has more on how the new bill will keep nearly $2 million in your pocket.

Right now, two lawsuits are pending against the county executive who is accused of abusing his power. New legislation in Anne Arundel County could keep taxpayers from paying Leopold’s legal fees.

“When that employee engages in serious misconduct who should be made to pay? The bad-acting employee or the taxpayers?” Councilman Jamie Benoit said.

Benoit said as the law stands now, taxpayers are responsible.

The proposal comes in wake of the legal action being taken against Leopold who is accused of sexual harassment and using his police officers assigned to protect him to do illegal background checks on political opponents and drive him to sexual encounters– allegations Leopold has denied from Day 1.

“I am confident that when all the relevant facts are known we will prevail,” Leopold said in an interview with WJZ on March 2.

If approved, the bill will take the burden of paying legal fees for officials accused of misconduct off the backs of taxpayers.

“I am fairly concerned now that the county has some exposure. This bill would seek to put that exposure on the shoulders of the person who deserves to pay it. And in that case, it’s the county executive,” Benoit said.

And finding taxpayers in Anne Arundel County who disagreed with the proposed bills was like finding a needle in a haystack.

“They make a lot more money than I do and I think they should handle it themselves,” one county resident said.

“I think they should have to pay for their own defense, their own mistakes, just like any other citizen,” Chris Kidnig said.

An ironic twist in all of this? Leopold’s position as county executive gives him the duty veto any new bills, an action Benoit says he doesn’t believe will happen.

Residents are not as confident.

The bills will be heard at the Arundel Center Sept. 4. Leopold’s trial is set for Jan. 16.

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