The Anne Arundel County Council introduced legislation that would remove County Executive John R. Leopold from his office, but the county’s attorney said such a decision is may be too hasty.
The council cast no vote at its emergency session on Wednesday afternoon, but introduced Bill 7-13, which would declare a vacancy in the executive’s position. The bill draws on a provision recently added to the county's charter after its passage in the November general election.
Leopold was found guilty on two counts of misconduct in office on Tuesday. Chief Administrative Officer John Hammond is now serving as acting Anne Arundel county executive as a result of the suspension of Leopold from his duties.
County Attorney Jonathan Hodgson argued that until Leopold is sentenced, there is no conviction, and thus no grounds to vote on his removal from office.
“It’s my opinion that this bill is premature, because sentencing has not occurred,” Hodgson said. “What we don’t want to do is to have a process that results in a flawed appointment. There’s no need to risk that.”
During the bill’s introduction, three council members spoke up saying they would like to co-sponsor it. In addition to the three members who are already sponsored on the bill, only Councilman John Grasso (R-2nd District) has not lent his sponsorship. The bill requires a 5-2 majority to pass.
Councilman Jamie Benoit (D-4th District) inquired whether or not there was a conflict of interest that would prevent the attorney from rendering objective advice. Benoit said he was concerned that any advice given could “pit the person appointed into that office against the legislative branch.”
Hodgson said afterward that he did not know of any conflicts.
After the meeting, Hodgson told a gathering of reporters that if had he been given the opportunity to speak during the session, he would have asked the council to postpone any action until Leopold is sentenced.
If Leopold is permanently removed from office, Hammond would continue as acting county executive until a replacement could be voted on by the full council. Both the vote on Leopold's removal and on his replacement would require a 5-2 majority to pass.
The bill will be voted on at the council's next regular meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday.