As Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold awaits trial on criminal allegations that he misused his police detail for personal and political gain, new depositions from police officers provide a glimpse of working relationships at the center of another controversy.
The depositions, given under oath and filed this week in a separate civil suit, reveal that some officers perceived Leopold's actions as exasperating — so much so that a 22-year-old veteran said police sometimes referred to him as "Crazy Uncle Jack."
"Unfortunately that was the nickname for the County Executive," Thomas Kohlmann said in a deposition filed Thursday. Karla Hamner's federal suit, which seeks $300,000 in damages, claims that Leopold ordered the spokeswoman to be fired because she had complained about his behavior.
The 100 pages of depositions portray a setting in which Leopold shared his thoughts — some off-color — about people, politicians, county workers and their loyalty to him. Police kept track of political disputes, and some worried that Leopold's actions would lead to trouble. According to one deposition, Leopold asked an officer to relay his plan to move Hamner to the Police Department and "get rid of her" because "he can't have anybody like that in County government."
Maj. Edward Bergin, who spent a couple of months as acting assistant chief pf the county police, said in a deposition that he went from being the police chief's adviser to an outcast because he took allegations about Leopold to the state prosecutor's office, which is pressing the criminal case. Another officer described how Leopold dismissed employees who ran afoul of the county executive.
Leopold has denied wrongdoing in both the criminal and civil cases; his spokesman declined Friday to comment on the depositions.
Joseph Pazulski was one of the officers on Leopold's security detail, which stopped accompanying the county executive routinely last year and was officially disbanded by the new police chief this week. Pazulski said that he used to escort Leopold to the Bank of America branch where the county executive met Hamner.
"I mean, one thing he really liked about her was the size of her breasts. He spoke about that," Pazulski said in his deposition. "Every time we had a conversation about her it was about the size of her breasts basically. ... And that he would like to have her work with the County Executive."
As Pazulski drove, Leopold talked about other things on his mind, according to the deposition.
And Pazulski observed what happened around the executive suite. The security detail, he said, made sure not to write anything down; word about the goings-on were passed from officer to officer and shift to shift.
"Any kind of quirky things, anything that, you know, was out of the ordinary to — we were supposed to report it to our sergeant," Pazulski said in the deposition. "Well, I mean, like if there's a particular councilman or delegate or something that's not in — on the ins right then and there, we would let him know so that he could let the Chief know … delegate so and so, you know, right now him and Mr. Leopold are not getting along."
Pazulski said Leopold told him that he had two officers transferred from the security detail because they were poor drivers, got rid of an employee after she failed to buy someone a birthday card on time because "you can't have somebody that doesn't follow his orders," and transferred a third officer because he "wasn't a loyal supporter."
A fourth officer, Pazulski said in the deposition, was transferred because he asked Leopold not to yell at him. Pazulski said he thought another woman in the office was dismissed for not giving a campaign donation.
"Mr. Leopold also said she wasn't a loyal supporter," he said in the deposition, later adding, "The atmosphere was that you had to kind of give to the campaign, otherwise you were — kind of felt you weren't loyal."
Hamner became a topic of discussion again, Pazulski said in the deposition, when Leopold told him to call then-Police Chief James Teare Sr. and tell him that Hamner was being transferred to the Police Department but should not be given a permanent position.
Asked Friday about Hamner's case, Teare said, "I did everything in accordance with the law, all rules and regulations and procedures as I know them."
Hamner sued the county in 2010, alleging that Leopold grabbed her arms and yelled in her face because of the way her hair fell across her brow. In her lawsuit in U.S. District Court, she said she complained about the incident, along with the way Leopold treated women, and was ultimately fired for doing so.
In the depositions filed by Hamner's attorney Thursday, police officers described some of the circumstances that led to her losing her job.
Bergin, a former supervisor of the security detail, said he was in Teare's office when Leopold called and said the chief was to get rid of Hamner.
Bergin's deposition details an expletive-laced plea to the chief not to go along with Leopold's plans, calling it "morally" and "ethically" wrong. He added that there was no reason Hamner couldn't be a spokeswoman for the Police Department because "a monkey could do that job," according to the deposition.
Bergin said in his deposition that Teare didn't respond. He said his relationship with the chief began to sour when Bergin went to the state prosecutor with allegations against Leopold.
"Chief Colonel Teare knew I was going to the State Prosecutor's Office, and I begged him to come up there with me," Bergin said in his deposition, adding that Teare declined to come.
Teare had no comment Friday.
Teare's retirement Aug. 1 was the first high-level departure from county government linked to the criminal indictment against Leopold. The announcement that Teare would be leaving came from the state prosecutor, the office that is pressing charges against Leopold. It was coupled with a statement that the state prosecutor was ending a criminal investigation into Teare.
"The most important thing to me at that time was that no one got in trouble," Bergin said in his deposition. "I felt that was my role, keep the Chief and everyone out of trouble. And you could see it coming. It was — I mean, I'm not the smartest guy in the world, but doggone. You know, with experience you know when things can go south, and I knew this would go south."