Reporting Mike Hellgren
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — There’s growing outrage over a big legal bill coming to taxpayers. It’s for defending Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold.
Mike Hellgren breaks down the cost as those taxpayers sound off.
Embattled Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold wouldn’t say a word about a new controversy over his legal troubles generating outrage: the bill.
WJZ has learned his private lawyers have asked for more than $20,000–all billed to county taxpayers for just two weeks of work on a federal discrimination lawsuit.
“Absolutely not. I don’t think it’s our responsibility for what he did. I don’t think we should have to pay for it,” said Lisa Titcomb.
“I don’t know if disgust is the proper word but I’m not pleased with the idea,” said Pete Saxton.
“I think it’s wrong, but it’s wrong he’s still in office,” said a county resident who wouldn’t give his name.
One of the lawyers is getting $450 an hour; the other is getting $350 an hour. But it’s all legal: state law mandates the county pay for Leopold’s defense.
“That’s a lot of money. That’s like half my paycheck right there, believe it or not,” said Kristen Doyle.
While the county attorney still represents Leopold in other matters, the more than $20,000 has gone toward those private attorneys defending Leopold in just one case–a suit filed by former employee Karla Hamner, who alleges a hostile work environment.
“I went to work every day terrified of what he would do next,” Hamner said.
Councilman Jamie Benoit has introduced legislation that would make Leopold pay back the money if he’s found liable.
“It’s an enormous distraction. Everything we do is colored by this cloud that’s hanging over the county right now,” Benoit said. “The taxpayers would demand that the bad-acting employee pay but for now, the taxpayers are going to be forced to pay for Mr. Leopold’s legal fees.”
Hamner claims Leopold harassed her, then fired her after she blew the whistle on inappropriate behavior.