Harford official charged with sexual touching


Harford County Councilman Mark Decker has been charged with battery and a fourth-degree sexual offense against a former county employee.

The criminal charges were filed Thursday in Harford County Circuit Court by a specially appointed prosecutor after an investigation by the Harford County Sheriff's Office.

The charges stem from an incident Feb. 7 when a courthouse custodian alleged that Mr. Decker approached her in the hallway outside County Council chambers in the courthouse and touched her breast.

Mr. Decker, a 34-year-old Republican who was elected to the County Council in November after five years as a Bel Air town commissioner, has denied any wrongdoing.

"My family and I are upset by these allegations. I have committed no criminal acts, period," he said yesterday.

The District C councilman, who represents Bel Air on the council, also issued a written statement:

"I encountered a county employee who was wearing a white medical smock instead of her normal custodian uniform. Because I was formerly a nursing student and an emergency medical technician, I asked her about the patch on her shoulder which showed a medical designation. I touched her arm in order to read the patch.

"This employee alleges that I also made contact with her chest, where she says she was wearing her name tag. I deny doing so," the statement continued.

The woman, who is no longer employed by the county, could not be reached for comment yesterday despite repeated telephone calls and a visit to her home.

Stephen R. Roscher, a Baltimore County assistant state's attorney, has been appointed a special prosecutor in the case. He said a trial date has not been set.

Mr. Decker is charged with one count of battery and one count of fourth-degree sexual offense, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail. A battery can include any unwanted physical contact; a fourth-degree sexual offense refers to inappropriate touching of an intimate nature.

The allegations came to light in March when the Harford County Sheriff's Office investigated an allegation that Mr. Decker had grabbed a female county employee's arm and touched her during an incident on Level A of the courthouse before the Feb. 7 council meeting.

At that time, Sheriff Joseph Meadows confirmed that an employ

ee had asked his agency to look into the allegations. The latest charges are the result of that investigation.

County government sources said then that the complaint originally was discussed as a personnel matter among officials of County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann's administration.

Those officials talked to Mr. Decker, who denied touching the woman improperly but agreed to stay away from her, the sources said.

After those discussions, the woman took her complaint to the Sheriff's Office.

The woman chose not to file charges last winter. But Sheriff's Office representatives said they advised her that, by law, she had one year and a day to file misdemeanor charges.

At the time of the alleged incident, the woman was a part-time nursingstudent while working full time as a custodian for the county, where she had been employed several years.

She finished school in May and last month left her county job for a nurse's position in Baltimore.

Mr. Decker served on the Bel Air Board of Town Commissioners five years, including one year as chairman.

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