By Erin Cox, The Baltimore Sun
7:11 PM EDT, September 12, 2012
John R. Leopold's new attorney attacked allegations that the Anne Arundel county executive's administration destroyed documents and deployed spies, calling them irrelevant and meant only to harass him.
The attorney blasted a recent affidavit containing those allegations and asked a judge to strike testimony she described as "immaterial, impertinent and scandalous."
"The inclusion of this Affidavit leads to only one result: to place sensational and scandalous material about Mr. Leopold and those who work for him in the public eye without advancing any of the Plaintiff's claims," attorney Linda Hitt Thatcher wrote in a motion filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court.
The affidavit filed last week by a current employee described a sexually charged atmosphere in Leopold's executive suite. It accused four men, including Leopold, of sexual impropriety and said employees were instructed not to write anything down or to complain about sexual harassment. The affidavit said Leopold and his top aides deployed spies to detect disloyalty.
Thatcher's motion lodges the first public response to those accusations, calling them "venomous information" and dismissing the arguments as "irrelevant matters and double-hearsay."
Leopold, 69, recently hired Thatcher to represent him in the gender discrimination suit filed two years ago by his former press aide, Karla Hamner. Until last month, county attorneys represented Leopold and the county against Hamner's allegations that Leopold created a hostile work environment for women and fired her for complaining.
The civil case is separate from the five-count criminal indictment Leopold faces on allegations he misused his police detail for personal and political gain. Leopold has denied wrongdoing.
Last week, Hamner's attorney filed an affidavit by Carla Sagerholm, who works in constituent services and said she is in on medical leave because of post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the "toxic environment" in Leopold's office. Sagerholm's affidavit was part of a motion asking a judge to expand discovery beyond depositions of four officers.
Thatcher dissected the affidavit and criticized Sagerholm for accusing Leopold and his staff of criminal behavior while admitting she did not have first-hand knowledge of the conduct. Thatcher said Sagerholm's allegations are not relevant to Hamner's case, which alleges misconduct in 2008.
Sagerholm's affidavit said she was a former swimsuit model and that Leopold asked to see her swimsuit shots. Thatcher said Leopold allegedly asked to see the pictures in March 2012, four years after Hamner left government, so the incident is not relevant.
"Sagerholm makes no attempt to say that she has any personal knowledge regarding her inflammatory allegations of 'spying;' she simply relies upon some unsupported belief," Thatcher wrote. "Thus, this statement is scandalous and speculative while offering nothing that connects the imagined spying to the Plaintiff or her case."
Thatcher also wrote that the ongoing lawsuit "has featured repeated disclosures to the media which serve no identifiable purpose other than to harass Mr. Leopold."
Attorney Jonathan Hodgson, who represents Anne Arundel County government in the case, declined to comment on Thatcher's motion.
"I'll let it speak for itself," Hodgson said.
John Singleton, who represents Hamner and a second former employee who has also filed a lawsuit against Leopold, said Thatcher is wrong to argue Sagerholm's affidavit is irrelevant and it shows she misunderstands the issue at hand.
"I think she just jumped into the case," Singleton said.
Two other county employees named as sexual aggressors in Sagerholm's affidavit have hired an attorney who said the claims about his clients are false and he's considering taking legal action.
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