O'Brien Atkinson, president of the county chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the department has weathered a tumultuous two years.

"When the chief of police has his retirement announced by the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutors, that certainly has an effect on morale," he said. The prosecutor's office conducts investigations into public corruption, election law violations and misconduct by public officials, among other crimes.

"I think that we knew from the very beginning of all this that the end result would be a cloud over the Police Department," he said. "It hurts every single officer because it changes the perception from every citizen to every officer out there working the streets."

Atkinson said it was time to "put this behind us as quickly as possible, whatever the outcome."

Dan Nataf, director of the center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College, said the uncertainty about Leopold's fate is "undermining the ability of county government to focus on its core mission."

"Right now we're focused on who's going to lead," Nataf said. If you're doing business with county government, he said, "you don't know how much to invest in Leopold or his office. … You're just not sure whether you're going to be dealing with the same set of actors that you're dealing with now."

Ashley Heffernan, chairwoman of the Anne Arundel County Democratic Central Committee, called the charges against Leopold "a very negative distraction."

"The news around the state about the county is about the county executive and his problems," she said. "And to me, that's embarrassing."

Grasso, the Republican county councilman, said the charges have had "no impact whatsoever" on county government.

"The government doesn't depend on any individual," he said. "One person leaves, one person gets in trouble, it doesn't stop anybody coming into work, doing their job and going home.

"The county executive could be gone for months, it wouldn't matter whatsoever, because everybody else is in place, knows their job, and what they're to do."

If Leopold enjoys a political stronghold, it's in northern Anne Arundel, where he makes his home, where he is known for strong constituent service going back to his days in the legislature. Voters in that part of the county have elected and reelected him county executive with double-digit margins.

Over coffee at the 3 B's Bakery & Lunch in Pasadena one morning last week, some of these neighbors made their feelings clear: They're ready for his trial to be over already.

"It's so we can all move on and it put to rest," said Santa Callahan, a 73-year-old Democrat from Orchard Beach who said she has voted for the Republican Leopold. "I'm tired of hearing about it."

Callahan said Leopold helped her daughter-in-law get a sign posted on her street to alert drivers to a child with special needs — her granddaughter.

"Nobody would help her," she said. "He did."

Donna Braun, 60, a retired Motor Vehicle Administration customer service agent from Glen Burnie, remembered Leopold sending her condolence letters on the deaths of her father and brother.

"I think that he is being made to be an example," she said. "He is saying he is innocent, and people still support him."

Braun said the case doesn't appear to have affected county services, but have "hurt the county's image."

At this point, she said, "It should be over with."

matthew.brown@baltsun.com

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andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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