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Arundel officials want police response explained

The Baltimore Sun

Some Anne Arundel County officials are calling for police to provide more information on their response to a report last month of possible sexual activity in a car that turned out to be County Executive John R. Leopold's government-issued vehicle.

The request came the day after Anne Arundel County Councilman C. Edward Middlebrooks asked that Col. James Teare Sr., the Anne Arundel police chief, speak to the council at its next meeting about how officers are expected to respond to reports of suspicious activity in mall parking lots.

"Are government vehicles treated differently than private individuals?" Middlebrooks, a Severn Republican, asked at Tuesday night's meeting. "I think we ought to know what the procedure is."

Yesterday, Leopold, also a Republican, called Teare and asked him to get in touch with Middlebrooks directly to answer his questions, said Erik Robey, Leopold's deputy chief administrative officer.

Middlebrooks said he spoke with Teare yesterday, but he said he told him that he believes the matter should be discussed publicly.

"I don't see this as any different than when the council in the past has requested him, or when he came before to talk about issues," Middlebrooks said.

The concerns stem from a Jan. 30 incident in which an anonymous 911 caller reported what appeared to be sexual activity in a car that turned out to be Leopold's county-issued Chevrolet Impala, which was parked at Westfield Annapolis mall. Leopold has responded that police determined the call to be unfounded. No charges were brought in the incident, and no police report was written.

Leopold is the first and only county executive in the state to have license plates on his car noting his elected office, said Maryland Vehicle Administration spokeswoman Caryn Coyle.

Other elected officials backed the call for more information, including Del. Don Dwyer, a Republican who represents Anne Arundel County.

"I think that it's appropriate for those questions to be asked, and I think that they should be answered," Dwyer said.

Chuck Gast, vice chairman of the state GOP central committee and a county resident, said he was not concerned about Leopold's actions in his private life, but "what would concern me more is if there was something done differently for [Leopold] than for any other citizen."

County Councilman G. James Benoit, a Crownsville Democrat, said he and others on the council have "pointed, salient questions" for the chief. Depending on his answers, the council may ask to speak with the officers, he said. "Did they treat this the same way they would handle a call about anyone else?" Benoit said. "There can't be different standards."

But Councilman Joshua J. Cohen, an Annapolis Democrat, said he thinks a private meeting is the "appropriate first step," because it is typical for council members to talk to department heads whenever they have an issue.

Council Chairman Edward R. Reilly said the council is preparing a letter to send to Teare requesting he attend the next meeting. He expects it to go out in the next two to three days. The council's next meeting is scheduled for March 2.

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