For Blair Lee IV, a Silver Spring developer whose father was acting governor, the charges against Leopold remind him more of Bill Clinton, circa 1998. “Isn’t this more of a ‘bimbo eruption?’ ” he asked.
Much like the Starr Report, parts of Leopold’s indictment read like a compendium of normally private episodes of cringe-worthy behavior.
There are shades of Richard Nixon, too. Leopold allegedly had his security detail compile dossiers on potential rivals, many of whom don’t seem terribly threatening. The alleged targets, according to the ACLU suit, include Jacqueline Allsup, head of the county’s NAACP chapter, and Carl Snowden, former civil rights director for Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler.
In the end, a county executive who prided himself on his frugality may have been too cheap for his own good. He allegedly had his security detail put up campaign signs, deposit campaign checks and perform other intern-level chores.
But unlike interns, county police officers earn $40 an hour, and $60 an hour for overtime. In 2010, protection officers allegedly racked up more than $10,000 in overtime keeping Leopold’s mistress and his live-in girlfriend from running into each other at the hospital where Leopold was laid up for two back surgeries. When one of his staffers suggested that he spend $2,000 to hire people to place signs, Leopold rejected the idea, it is alleged.
These days, Leopold drives the Chevy Impala himself. The security detail was disbanded in August.
If he is convicted and tossed out of office, Leopold will be forced to leave the occupation he has devoted the past 40 years of his life to — elective office.
He had served in the Hawaii state Senate and run unsuccessfully for governor there when he and his third — now former — wife, moved to Maryland in 1981.
Leopold settled in Pasadena and and immediately began “shopping around for a political post in Anne Arundel County to fit his talents,” according to a 1982 Washington Post article. He settled on state delegate and won.
Leopold started campaigns for county executive several times, only to back out.
Along the way, he became known for bare-bones campaign tactics that were heavy on attention-grabbing gimmicks and light on paid staff. He stood along busy roads wielding huge signs bearing his name. He regaled reporters with tallies of the thousands of hands he shook and pieces of campaign literature he personally mailed.
In 2003, Leopold again announced his candidacy for county executive. During his successful three-year campaign, he claimed to have knocked on 17,000 doors.
Once in office, Leopold turned his attention to restricting development and trimming the budget.
There was one expense he chose not to cut: the security detail begun by his predecessor, Janet Owens, that was estimated to cost the county at least $125,000 a year. In a post-Sept. 11 world, then-Police Chief James Teare Sr. recommended keeping it in order to protect the county executive from people who might be “angry or have mental deficiencies.”
Leopold agree — with one caveat.
“I will use it judiciously when needed,” he said, “and drive myself when I can.”