Leopold opens up, and comes out swinging against Neuman

Former Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold has resurfaced with a critique of his successor, saying her statements about his administration are "disingenuous" and "feckless."

In a letter sent to The Baltimore Sun and other newspapers, Leopold criticized current County Executive Laura Neuman's description of the county as "defined by mediocrity" and "way behind in culture, attitude and investment" because of Leopold's actions.

Leopold said in an interview Thursday afternoon that he decided to speak up because he felt Neuman's assertions went too far.

"I have no problem with her wanting to stress her goals and accomplishments, but I felt some of her statements were inaccurate," he said.

As she introduced her budget May 1, Neuman recounted her first days in the job, when she found a "paralyzing" atmosphere and technology so bad that the buttons on her phone were falling off. Without referring to Leopold by name, Neuman implied that the problems were related to her predecessor.

Both in an interview and in the letter, Leopold emphasized a long list of what he considers his accomplishments, such as keeping taxes low, installing turf athletic fields at high schools and creating an annual Homeless Resource Day.

He said belt-tightening during his seven years as executive were necessary during a tough economy. He instituted hiring freezes and furloughs for county workers.

He said he deserves some credit for a rosier budget picture that Neuman inherited.

"We exercised very strict fiscal discipline in difficult times that laid the groundwork for the largesse the appointed county executive is offering," Leopold said.

Neuman offered a sharp reply to Leopold's letter. In a brief statement, she wrote: "It's clear Mr. Leopold would like to continue his legacy, however, the citizens of Anne Arundel County are ready for a fresh start. At some point, Mr. Leopold will have to come to terms with the fact he is no longer county executive."

Neuman became county executive this year after Leopold resigned under fire. He was found guilty of two counts of misconduct in office related to using county employees, including his police security detail, for his personal and political activities.

Leopold eventually served 30 days in jail and also spent time on house arrest. He's now completing 400 community service hours that are part of his sentence at the Anne Arundel County Food and Resource Bank in Crownsville.

When asked if he'd shared his critique with Neuman, Leopold said he hadn't. Shortly after she was appointed by the County Council, Leopold said, he sent a letter offering to meet with her. She did not respond, he said.

Leopold offered some praise for Neuman in his letter, saying he was pleased she's funding a boat ramp at Fort Smallwood Park and a new Lake Shore Fire Station, both in Pasadena, where he lives.

In addition to monitoring his successor and working on community service, Leopold has been more active in the community. He attended a few public events in recent weeks, including a community meeting about a bridge repair project and the launch of Republican Del. Steve Schuh's campaign for county executive.

Leopold said he still has people calling him asking for help with issues and he tries to help.

As for the future, besides appealing his misconduct conviction, Leopold said his only plan is to "take it one day at a time."


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