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Another Complaint Alleges Harassment

Ex-Aide to Leopold Files Accusation As Female Employees Support Him

County Executive John R. Leopold's former aide says he was abusive.
County Executive John R. Leopold's former aide says he was abusive. (James M Thresher - Twp)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 15, 2009

A former aide to Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold filed a complaint with state and federal authorities yesterday claiming that he physically and verbally harassed her about her hair and once grabbed her by the arms and yelled at her about her appearance.

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Leopold's former spokeswoman, Karla Hamner, made her allegations to the Maryland Commission on Human Relations and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If the complaint does not result in an investigation and resolution, her attorney said, Hamner plans to sue Leopold (R) and the county for $200,000 in back pay and damages.

It was the second formal allegation in a week that Leopold acted inappropriately with a woman. A state employee said Leopold made unwanted advances toward her in the county building cafeteria April 30.

Hamner said that on April 16, 2008, Leopold grabbed her by the arms and yelled at her to keep her hair out of her face. She later left his office and took a job with the county police department, but was later let go.

Her allegations came the same day that a dozen female county employees called a news conference to defend Leopold. The women, who are current or former political appointees of Leopold, said he had not harassed them.

Leopold spokesman Dave Abrams said the women requested the news conference on their own and that the county executive did nothing to influence what they said. "He is touched that the women in his office chose to make this strong statement," Abrams said.

Michele Cross, a secretary who works for Leopold's chief administrative officer, Dennis Callahan, called the allegations against the county executive "ridiculous," but refused to comment on particulars of the complaints. "He's a good man. He treats us all with respect," Cross said.

Hamner used to work with several of the women who were at the news conference. She said two of the secretaries who spoke were in the room when Leopold allegedly grabbed her by the arms. Hamner said that Laura Wicklund, one of Leopold's secretaries, confirmed to her that she saw it and that Patty Bowman, Leopold's appointment scheduler, was looking down at her desk at the time and didn't see it directly, but was told about it shortly after.

Yesterday, Wicklund said she did not see Leopold grab Hamner but refused to talk about it further. Bowman said she had no knowledge of the incident and would not talk about the allegations.

Last week, Marvenise Harris complained to the state Department of Human Resources that Leopold tried to ask her for a date and made her feel uncomfortable when she refused. Leopold's spokesman has said the state complaint was dismissed with a finding of "no probable cause," but a state spokesman, citing confidentiality rules, would not confirm or deny the complaint. Harris, who is African American, also complained to the NAACP, which has asked the Office of the State Prosecutor to investigate.

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