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Arundel councilmen pitch bills on employee legal settlements

Laws and LegislationJustice System

Anne Arundel County employees whose deliberate behavior leads to legal settlements or judgments against the county could be ordered to cut a check for the damages under a bill to be introduced Monday before the County Council.

One proposal would allow the county attorney to pursue the recovery of damages from an employee in such cases. Another bill to be introduced Monday would allow the council to approve large legal settlements.

The bills — sparked by two pending civil lawsuits against County Executive John R. Leopold and the county — have the sponsorship of Jamie Benoit, a Crownsville Democrat, and Jerry Walker, a Gambrills Republican.

"I think 99 percent of the taxpayers don't want to pay for the intentional bad acts of county employees," Benoit said.

Leopold's spokesman declined to comment on the bill aimed at employees and said the administration opposed the second measure.

Benoit said the lawsuits against Leopold had prompted the proposals. The county faces a potential payout of more than $1 million if two federal lawsuits against Leopold are successful. The suits, filed by women who once worked for the county executive, allege discrimination and retaliation. Leopold has denied wrongdoing in both cases.

The second bill would allow the council to approve out-of-court settlements, which now are handled by the executive branch and a committee for the county's self-insurance fund.

The two council members said they believed it was appropriate for the council to approve any administration request for a legal settlement over $100,000.

Of the bill aimed at recovering money from employees, Leopold's spokesman, Dave Abrams, said, "We will review the legislation when it is introduced and, as always, we will comment on it at the appropriate time."

He called the other measure a "bad bill." Saying the council was "not qualified to make legal judgments," he added, "That's why we have a county attorney."

Hearings on the bills are scheduled for Sept. 4, Benoit said.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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