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Ex-Arundel employee alleges wrongful termination by Leopold

A former county employee has alleged that she was fired from her secretarial post after failing to donate to the campaign of Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold, according to court documents.

The allegations by Laurie A. Garvey, who worked as Leopold's executive secretary from 2007 to 2008, are contained in a $5 million lawsuit alleging that Leopold sexually harassed another former county employee, Karla R. Hamner. The complaint alleges that Garvey was fired a few weeks after she chose not to attend a Leopold campaign event and not to donate $50 to his campaign, and was told her dismissal was because Leopold didn't view her as a "loyal employee."

The amended complaint, filed Tuesday by attorney John M. Singleton in U.S. District Court in Maryland, says Garvey's termination was unlawful and Leopold denied Garvey her First Amendment rights.

"Employees are scared to talk about anything," said Singleton. "If they talk about anything about the peccadilloes of John Leopold or the way he treats women, they're going to lose their job."

County Attorney Jonathan A. Hodgson said the allegations have "no merit."

"We're in a pattern with this lawyer, where every two weeks he throws something together to get his allegations in the newspaper," said Hodgson. "This simply reconfirms for me that the entire suit is more about the upcoming election than anything else."

A spokesman for Leopold declined to comment.

Hamner, who worked for Leopold for more than a year ending in 2008, filed a $300,000 sexual harassment, discrimination and workplace retaliation suit Aug. 23, alleging that Leopold made unwanted sexual advances toward her and once grabbed her by her arms and screamed at her because he disliked her hairstyle. She said that after complaining about her treatment, she was transferred to a job in the Police Department and ultimately let go.

Earlier this month, Singleton attempted to file an amended complaint — which contained allegations from at least three people who subsequently said in interviews that the allegations were untrue and they had never spoken to Singleton — in county circuit court. But by the time the complaint was received in circuit court, the case had been transferred to federal court, and was returned to Singleton. Hodgson threatened to "seek an award of sanctions" against Singleton and his firm to pay for legal time and costs "in disposing of the frivolous claims and contentions."

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