Arundel police official seeks probe into how councilman got his personnel information

The Anne Arundel County police official who wants a federal probe into his agency is asking the County Council to investigate how a member learned about a personnel complaint against him that he contends the council member raised publicly to try to discredit him.

At last week's council meeting, Councilman John J. Grasso brought up a hostile work environment allegation against Deputy Chief Emerson C. Davis that dates back more than three years. Davis responded by saying, "I don't think you want to go there, Mr. Grasso."

In a letter last week to the council chairman seeking the investigation, Davis' lawyer wrote that whatever Grasso knew about the matter "could only have been gleaned by an examination or access to my client's official personnel file or provided to him by a higher ranking government official" familiar with it, and it should not have been disseminated.

Exposing the complaint has left Davis "publicly embarrassed and humiliated," lawyer Mark W. Howes wrote to Council Chairman Derek J. Fink.

Dave Abrams, a spokesman for the administration of County Executive John R. Leopold, said he had not seen the letter and declined to comment.

Davis was at the April 2 council meeting to answer questions in connection with the recent criminal indictment of Leopold, who is accused of directing his police security detail to perform personal and political tasks. Police Chief James Teare Sr. was told about some of the activities, but took "no effective action," the indictment alleges. Teare was not indicted.

Grasso said the personnel allegations probably weren't a secret.

"Hostile work environment ... who would have known that? Everyone who worked there. Somebody would have had to file a complaint against him," Grasso, a Glen Burnie Republican, said Thursday. "So how is that private information?"

He said he received the information in unsolicited anonymous telephone calls before the council meeting and didn't know at the time what came of the complaint.

It ended in a confidential settlement with the county and was closed by the Police Department as "not sustained," according to Howes' letter.

"I find it ironic that I was invited by the County Council to speak before them on matters of police procedures, which turned into a discussion on corruption and dirty politics in county government, and Councilman Grasso pulls a stunt like that," Davis, who has asked for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into alleged police misconduct, said in a statement. "Corruption exists in government when employees are afraid to come forward at the risk of being bullied, intimidated or embarrassed publicly."

Fink said he doesn't know if the council has the authority to investigate. He understood Grasso received the information anonymously.

Howes, who sent copies of the letter to the county's Ethics Commission, Office of the Special Prosecutor — which investigated Leopold for a year before a grand jury handed up the indictment — and the county attorney, said if the council won't pursue it, he'll ask the Ethics Commission to take it on. The commission, like the special prosecutor, can take it up on its own.

"Go ahead … I ain't got nothing to hide. Even if I knew who said it, I am not telling anybody, but I don't know. What are you going to do about it, throw me off the council? Woo — I'm doing the job for free now," Grasso said, noting that he gives his council salary to charities and community projects.

Grasso raised the personnel issue at the council meeting after Davis said that the department faced leadership issues and he had seen Teare with a file on a state worker who claimed that Leopold sexually harassed her. The file contained a state criminal records search on her. He said he suggested that Teare shred the file, and Teare stuck it in a shredder and told a sergeant "to do no other investigations."

Grasso said he raised the hostile workplace issue and Teare's promotion to chief to show possible motivation for Davis' remarks and because Teare was not there to rebut Davis' words.