By Matthew Hay Brown and Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun
7:48 PM EST, February 4, 2013
By resigning ahead of a vote to remove him, former Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold may hold onto his $8,000 county pension, officials said.
"I believe this factored into his decision," said Jerry Walker, chairman of the Anne Arundel County Council.
The County Council had scheduled a vote to remove Leopold for Monday, his 70th birthday, after he was found guilty last week of criminal misconduct in office. With six of seven members co-sponsoring the measure, it was expected to pass.
Under an amendment last year to the county charter, the council could then have voted to take away Leopold's county retirement benefits. Voters approved the amendment in November as Leopold awaited trial.
But the two-term Republican stepped down on Friday, and the measure has been withdrawn. As a result, Walker and others said, Leopold remains eligible to collect an annual county payment of $8,017.08.
"Since he has resigned … the charter provides no mechanism for canceling his right to the pension," said Walker, a fellow Republican.
A message seeking comment from Leopold was not returned. Bruce Marcus, his attorney, said Monday the pension "was not a factor" in the executive's decision.
"Mr. Leopold's decision to resign was based on what he believed was in the best interests of the citizens of Anne Arundel County," Marcus said.
Leopold did not mention the pension in his resignation letter. Instead, he described his two-week trial as a "compelling and humbling experience," and said resigning was "the most difficult decision I have ever made," but "the right one."
Chief Administrative Officer John Hammond is acting as the county executive.
Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney found Leopold guilty last week of two counts of misconduct for directing his police protection detail to put up signs during his 2010 re-election campaign, to collect campaign checks and to compile dossiers on his adversaries, and for having officers and his scheduler drain the urinary catheter bag he used after back surgery that year.
Leopold is scheduled to return to Anne Arundel Circuit Court on March 14 for sentencing.
Democrat Jamie Benoit, Leopold's most vocal critic on the County Council, said he had had no interest in trying to recover the retirement benefits.
Benoit said he appreciated that Leopold's resignation had "spared the county another litigious, acrimonious process."
A vote to remove Leopold as county executive would not have affected any benefits he is due to earn from his 18 years in the Maryland House of Delegates, nor from his 12 years in state office in Hawaii.
Leopold's resignation Friday started a 30-day deadline for the council to approve a replacement. Under the county charter, Leopold's successor must be a registered voter of the same party — in this case, a Republican — at least 25 years old who has lived in the county for the last four years.
State Del. Steve Schuh, state Sen. Ed Reilly, former U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino, County Council Chairman Walker and Vice Chairman John Grasso all have expressed interest in the job.
Hammond has said he would continue as acting executive for as long as the council would have him, but will not run for the job in 2014.
The council on Monday directed applicants to submit a resume, a financial disclosure form and a completed questionnaire by Feb. 15.
The council is to meet Feb. 21 to interview candidates and then vote to appoint a new executive.
Republicans hold a 4-3 majority on the council.
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