Women Accuse Anne Arundel's Leopold of Inappropriate Behavior
Saturday, May 23, 2009
When Raejean French worked as assistant to then-Del. John R. Leopold, he often had some unusual requests: She said he would ask her to track down women he had met at community and political gatherings and persuade them to meet with him or call him on a private line in his office.
"It got to the point where sometimes he would have a name, sometimes he wouldn't," she said. "Sometimes he would just say, ' You know, that slim, blond woman who was wearing the green blouse.' "
French was one of two women who came forward yesterday to allege that Leopold, now the Anne Arundel county executive, engaged in inappropriate behavior with women he met through his political life. The other woman said Leopold badgered her for a date seven years ago after meeting her at an official function, even though she was married, had children and had rejected his advances repeatedly.
The latest allegations come as a complaint against him by a third woman, a former county employee, is pending with state and federal authorities and amid calls from the NAACP for the state prosecutor to investigate whether he harassed a fourth woman in the cafeteria of the county government headquarters last month.
"These claims are about things that supposedly happened a decade ago and have nothing to do with my job performance," Leopold (R) said yesterday through a spokesman. "No one has ever complained about my conduct until now. And I am deeply offended by the innuendoes printed about me."
French worked in Leopold's legislative office in 1999. On occasion, she said, Leopold would send notes or gifts to women, including lobbyists working in Annapolis. When that happened, he often wanted her to quiz the women: " 'Did she like the gift? What was her response? What was her tone of voice?' "
"If he didn't like the answers I got, he would call me at home and ask, 'Are you sure she said it this way? You must have gotten it wrong,' because the reaction wasn't always positive," French, 56, told The Washington Post in an interview.
Her allegations were first reported yesterday in the Annapolis newspaper the Capital. Leopold has dismissed the allegations as the work of his political adversaries. Through a spokesman, he said French had been fired from his legislative office.
French told The Post that she had voted for Leopold, had contributed to his political campaigns and has never worked for any of his political opponents. She said she was not fired from his legislative office; she quit.
"The things he had me do made me feel sick. I would hide and cry in the ladies' room just to get away from it," she said. "I couldn't do anything about it. He signed my timesheet and paycheck."
French said she came forward after hearing about other women's allegations involving Leopold and said, "I'm doing this because I believe there are other women out there right now who are afraid, and I hope this will help them be able to talk."
In a separate interview, Terri Owens said she met Leopold through her work as community affairs coordinator for the cable company Millennium Digital Media and served in community groups with him. She said she ran into Leopold in a library parking lot seven years ago, and he asked her to lunch. She declined and told him that she was married.