When Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold was found guilty on two counts of misconduct in office, a number of his former employees and political opponents were watching.
"I'm very happy about at least two out of the four counts," Joan Harris said.
Harris is a former county employee who, along with Karla Hamner, has filed a discrimination lawsuit against Leopold in U.S. District Court.
Judge Dennis Sweeney found Leopold guilty on two of the four counts of misconduct in office brought by the state prosecutor's office. Leopold was also found not guilty on the fifth—and most serious—charge of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary. That count carried a sentence of up to five years in prison.
In his decision, Sweeney said Leopold should have known better than to direct on-duty police officers to do his campaign work like distribute signs and collect donations.
"Placing officers in such an untenable position of being conscripted campaign workers for months ... was contrary to his core duty as a county executive and had the potential to undermine the public's confidence in its police force," Sweeney said.
He also found Leopold guilty of misconduct for compiling files on political opponents like Carl Snowden and Joanna Conti, who ran against him for office in 2010. Both of them showed up for the verdict.
Snowden said he believes the decision will bolster his civil lawsuit against Leopold and the county. The American Civil Liberties Union is suing on behalf of Snowden and 11 other people.
"We believe that we will prevail in a civil lawsuit, and that we will win damages," Snowden said.
Conti said, "I think this has dragged Anne Arundel County through the mud."
She also announced her plans to launch another campaign for county executive in 2014.
Judge Sweeney also admonished the county executive for requiring officers and his scheduling secretary Patty Medlin to empty urine from a catheter bag strapped to Leopold's ankle.
Medlin cried during the first day of testimony while describing how she would get down on her hands and knees to empty Leopold's urine into a coffee can.
Sweeney said it "demonstrates an overbearing arrogance and sense of entitlement that is unworthy of someone who is supposed to be a public servant."
Harris said she sympathized with Medlin.
"I felt every drop of her pain," Harris said. "Her pain is real; her fear is real. Everybody feared him because we knew we could get fired, and that's what happened to me."
Snowden, Harris and Conti all think Leopold should resign immediately.
"I heard that the Annapolis bowling alley is hiring, and I understand they will offer free parking for him so I think maybe he could apply there," Harris said.
After the verdict, Leopold said, "I'm humbled by the decision."
When asked whether he would resign, defense attorney Bruce Marcus stepped in and said he and the executive will consider all options over the next few weeks and "let the press know when we come to certain conclusions."
The county council announced it will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to introduce a bill declaring a vacancy in the county executive's office. They will vote on whether to remove Leopold at their regular meeting on Feb. 4.
"It's a sad day for Anne Arundel County. It's a very serious situation that we find ourselves in," Council Chair Jerry Walker (R-Gambrills) said. "In some ways it's a relief that it's sort of behind us at this point and I'm hopeful that the county can move forward."
An amendment to Maryland's constitution approved by voters in November 2012 suspended Leopold from office as soon as Sweeney read the verdict. Leopold signed an executive order making the county's Chief Administrative Officer John Hammond the acting county executive.
The law only placed Leopold in a temporary state of suspension—he could regain his position and benefits under state law if his conviction were overturned on appeal.
The county's bill, drafted by Walker, would remove Leopold using a county charter amendment passed by voters in November 2012. It gives the council permission to remove executives found guilty of crimes of "moral turpitude" or "of misfeasance or malfeasance in office."
Walker said he circulated the legislation to his fellow council members requesting co-sponsors. Councilman Jamie Benoit (D-Crownsville), who recently announced that he will not run for county executive in 2014, has already agreed to do so.
Patch reporter Bryan Sears contributed to this story.
- Judge Finds Leopold Not Guilty on One Misconduct Charge
- Leopold's Defense Emerges as Prosecution Rests in Misconduct Trial
- Lawyers Lay Out Their Cases in Leopold Trial
- Leopold Waives Right to Jury Trial
- County Executive's Trial Starts in Annapolis