The Washington Post

Leopold had money to hire paid campaign staffers, elections official testifies

Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold answers questions while presenting the county's legislative package during a hearing at the Lowe House Office Building earlier this month. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold’s campaign had more than a half-million dollars in the bank in the weeks leading up to the 2010 election, when prosecutors say he was having his security detail put up campaign posters.

Jared deMarinis, a top state Board of Elections official, testified at Leopold’s misconduct trial that the Leopold campaign reported in August 2010 that it had an account balance of $568,585, more than enough money to hire paid campaign staffers.

Leopold staff member Erik Robey testified previously that he suggested Leopold spend $2,000 to pay people to put up posters rather than use his security detail, but the second-term Republican rejected the idea. The security detail is made up of county police who earn $40 to $60 an hour.

Leopold’s alleged use of his security detail for personal and political benefit is at the center of the state’s case against him, now unfolding in Circuit Court in Annapolis. Leopold, 69, faces four counts of misconduct and one count of fraudulently misappropriating county funds, which carries a sentence of up to five years. If he is convicted, the leader of Maryland’s fourth-largest county could be removed from office.

Several former members of his security detail have testified that Leopold had them work overtime to put up posters, collect campaign contribution checks and drive him as he tore down an opponent’s campaign signs. They also said he had them ferry him to sexual encounters with a female county employee, pick up his dry cleaning, deliver newspapers to him and drain a urine bag attached to a catheter he was required to wear after back surgery.

The sign Anne Arundel County executive John Leopold allegedly tore down during 2010 campaign. (Annys Shin/TWP)

The allegations run counter to the lone wolf campaign style that Leopold was famous for. His official 2010 campaign staff consisted of him and a treasurer. Leopold loaned his campaign about $290,000 and later paid it back to himself, campaign finance reports show. After the election, the campaign reported a final balance of zero.

Leopold has said in the past that he has financed his campaigns using money from a family inheritance. He lives with his girlfriend and is a loyal customer of the Double T Diner and the Golden Corral in Glen Burnie.

Several former protection officers described taking him there on weekends — the Double T on Saturdays and the Golden Corral on Sundays — for an 11 a.m. lunch. Once Leopold wanted to leave the Corral to see whether there were security cameras at a community center near where he had ripped out an opponent’s campaign sign. Leopold made sure to ask the restaurant manager whether he could finish his meal when he got back, Sgt. Timothy Phelan testified Thursday.

Maryland state prosecutors finished their case against Leopold on Thursday. The defense will present evidence on Friday, including a doctor who treated Leopold for his back troubles.

The defense has argued that Leopold had to rely more on his security detail after his back pain became debilitating in late 2009. Leopold had two back surgeries in 2010 to treat spinal stenosis. They contend that the officers did not regard any of the tasks they performed for Leopold as criminal until Leopold called for an audit of their overtime pay in 2011.

Annys Shin has been a staff writer at the Washington Post since 2004.



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